President Joe Biden downplayed calling Chinese leader Xi Jinping a “dictator” following backlash from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), according to Newsmax. The president’s comments reportedly came during a fundraiser in San Francisco while speaking about another Chinese surveillance balloon that made its way over the United States in recent days.
Biden said that the reason Xi was upset about the U.S. shooting it down was that he did not know about it, adding that ignorance is embarrassing for dictators. The comment was immediately lambasted by China’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning, who went to the U.S. Ambassador Nicholas Burns to complain that it was “extremely absurd and irresponsible.”
But during a press conference with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Biden brushed it off and doubted that his comment will have any damper on U.S.-China relations. He reportedly told reporters that he expects to meet with the Chinese leader soon. Xie Feng, the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. also reportedly protested the comment to senior officials at the White House and Department of State.
After the balloon caught American attention, Biden officials faced sharp questioning from lawmakers curious about why it was not shot down sooner. It was learned that the surveillance prop could monitor U.S. communications and was part of a fleet that likely spied on 40 other countries across five continents.
Lawmakers were briefed by officials from the Pentagon, State Department, and intelligence community. The working theory is that Xi did not have knowledge of the balloon, which would be a curious piece of information, if true, as it shows a disconnect in the CCP’s operations.
Biden officials claimed that the balloon was not a threat, but that claim was pushed back by some lawmakers, including Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, who noted that they are always briefed on how China is a military risk.