Joe Biden again infuriates China after once more calling Xi Jinping a dictator

Biden and Xi.
Joe Biden and Xi Jinping. Photo credit: Reuters

US President Joe Biden says he hasn't changed his view China President Xi Jinping is effectively a dictator, a comment likely to land with a thud in Beijing after the two leaders held straightforward summit talks.

Biden held a solo news conference after four hours of talks with Xi on the outskirts of San Francisco. At the end of the news conference, he was asked whether he still held the view Xi was a dictator, something he said in June.

"Look, he is. He's a dictator in the sense that he's a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that's based on a form of government totally different than ours," Biden said.

In response, China's foreign ministry said it "strongly opposes" the remarks, without mentioning Biden by name. 

"This statement is extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation," foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told reporters on Thursday at a routine briefing.

"It should be pointed out that there will always be some people with ulterior motives who attempt to incite and damage US-China relations, they are doomed to fail."

Mao refused to specify the identity of "some people" in answer to a follow-up question.

Last March Xi clinched a third term as President when nearly 3000 members of China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress, voted unanimously for him in an election in which there was no other candidate. 

Xi is considered the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, after a decade of consolidating power in policymaking and the military, and stifling media freedoms.

There was no immediate reaction from the Chinese delegation, which had come to the US to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. Hundreds of critics of Beijing marched through the city's downtown at about midday on Wednesday (local time), chanting "free Tibet" and "free Hong Kong".

When Biden made a similar dictator reference in June, China called the remarks absurd and a provocation. But the spat did not prevent the two sides from holding extensive talks aimed at improving strained relations, which culminated in Wednesday's meeting.

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