Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
For a man routinely mocked for his inability to string together sentences in even prepared remarks, President Joe Biden’s greatest blunder might have occurred Thursday when he stumbled through sharing a fact.
Immediately following what was marketed by the White House as a highly productive meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in San Francisco, Biden responded truthfully when asked by a reporter if he felt Xi was a dictator.
“Well, look, he is,” Biden said. “He’s a dictator in the sense that he is a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that is based on a form of government totally different than ours.”
Biden’s error was not in his appreciation for reality – China’s leader is a dictator – but in his lack of tact in dealing with an international rival while simultaneously trying to find a middle ground on the matter of despotism.
If there was such a thing as politely calling someone a dictator, Biden found it.
The president attributed the characterization to a difference in governance philosophy rather than a laundry list of human rights abuses, the systematic purging of political adversaries even within the Chinese communist party, or a general disrespect for liberty.
However, in keeping with the tradition of despots throughout world history, Xi proved he is averse to even soft-shoe criticism.
By all reports, Xi and China have not taken Biden’s remarks well. A spokesperson for the Chinese government has referred to the remarks as “extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation.”
Biden has attempted to downplay the outrage his statement caused in the same way he has addressed so many of his previous missteps – by ignoring them.
“Mr. President, we have known each other for a long time,” Biden posted on X. “We have not always agreed. But our meetings are always candid, straightforward, and useful. Yesterday was no different. Our nations may be in competition, but that doesn’t mean we can’t compete responsibly.”
Mr. President, we have known each other for a long time.
We have not always agreed. But our meetings are always candid, straightforward, and useful.
Yesterday was no different.
Our nations may be in competition, but that doesn't mean we can't compete responsibly. pic.twitter.com/550epPY91b
— President Biden (@POTUS) November 16, 2023
The interesting thing about Biden’s comment is that it figures to refreeze relations with China almost as quickly as they’d begun to thaw.
There is a sizable contingent of Americans, most of whom are found on the right, who see no reason to appease China on anything, but Biden has marketed himself as a bridgebuilder who could bring the two nations closer.
By Biden’s standard, things were going well. The two leaders reportedly made headway on attacking the fentanyl crisis, shared broad agreement on climate matters, agreed to address concerns about artificial intelligence, and hinted that they are poised to resume military communication.
These revelations should not be viewed as concrete steps forward as all agreements were in spirit only.
On climate, they two promised to work together to lessen methane emissions. Biden and Xi made similar agreements to cooperate on slowing the flow of fentanyl into the United States without finalizing any details.
Former President Donald Trump criticized Biden for failing to exact enough from China on the fentanyl crisis.
“President Xi and I had a deal whereby China was going to criminalize at the highest level, THE DEATH PENALTY, the manufacturing of Fentanyl,” Trump posted on Truth Social. “That deal miraculously disappeared with our RIGGED PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION OF 2020. Too bad!!! One more thing to add to the Stolen Election List of Disasters!”
It remains to be seen what comes next in the U.S.-China relationship.
All signs have pointed to the situation worsening, particularly around Taiwan but also in the areas of technology and economic competition., and nothing about the much-ballyhooed talks resulted in meaningful headway in those areas.
Talks between the nations’ leaders could prove a step toward more productive bargaining on these pressing issues, or they might be a momentary detour on a road that leads to far more serious consequences.