In an unexpected turn of events, during a press conference on November 15, 2023, US President Joe Biden referred to Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a “dictator.” This comment caused Secretary of State Antony Blinken to react visibly, just hours after Biden and Xi met in an attempt to improve their countries’ strained relations. The meeting marked the first face-to-face encounter between the two leaders in a year.
The situation has been described as the undoing of twelve months of delicate diplomacy by Blinken, and drew criticism from diplomats. The US-China relationship is grounded in the “One China” policy, under which the Chinese Communist Party is recognized as the legitimate government and China’s claims to Taiwan are acknowledged but not endorsed. Biden has previously expressed a willingness to defend Taiwan if it were attacked by China, causing a departure from the “One China” policy. China responded strongly to Biden’s comment, calling it “extremely wrong and irresponsible political manipulation.”
Following the meeting between Biden and Xi, a press conference took place where Biden was questioned about his statement in June, in which he had described Xi as a “dictator.” Biden stood by his description, emphasizing that China’s form of government differs significantly from that of the US and characterizing Xi as the leader of a communist country. Blinken, who had worked to prepare for the meeting, reacted visibly after Biden’s comment.