China Decries Biden's Off-Script 'Dictator Xi' Comment As "Extremely Wrong" Political Maneuvering

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Nov 16, 2023 - 03:30 PM

Update11/16(0730ET): With the summit wrapped up, and Xi's plane headed back to Beijing, the Chinese government on Thursday issued its first reaction to Biden calling Xi a "dictator" - which it should be emphasized was said while Xi was literally still there in San Francisco (if not still in the same venue or building):

President Joe Biden’s description of Chinese leader Xi Jinping as a dictator is “extremely wrong,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said Thursday at a regular press briefing in Beijing.

Mao slammed the remark as "irresponsible political maneuvering" - and likely there is much more condemnation out of China to come. This could be only the beginning. 

Cameras caught Secretary Blinken's reaction in real time, which strongly suggests the White House was immediately sent scrambling to try and fix the mess...

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Update(2115ET)Hands down the biggest moment from Biden's post-Xi meeting, and which threatens to derail any positive feelings built through the day, was his off-the-cuff remark calling Xi a "dictator". Was he so far off-script that the White House will issue a clarification? Will the dictator comment stand? Watch the moment which is sure to rile Beijing, and immediately cast a cloud over whatever 'progress' may have been made after hours of talks...

Bloomberg observes that it was off-the-cuff:

The dictator comment is the sort of off-the-cuff comment from Biden that has stirred controversy in the past. His response came after the formal set of questions had been presented from the media. Reporters were shouting out questions to extend the briefing. Biden has made comments in the past about defending Taiwan and Russian “incursions” into Ukraine that forced White House staff to clarify what the president had intended.

As seen in the above clip, the press was ushered out of the room fairly quickly after the dictator comment from Biden.

The below also shows how careful Biden's staff was trying to be earlier in the day in trying to prevent any spontaneous interaction between the president and the press...

Bloomberg noted additionally: 

The dictator remark will probably overshadow what looks like some cut-through on some very important areas, namely controlling fentanyl and on both militaries talking to each other. China may choose to ignore it... or not.

AFP/Getty Images

Certainly the CCP is not known to ignore such statements, especially as it's not the first time Biden called Xi a dictator.

China will also not be happy at the fact that President Biden put great emphasis on Washington's "Ironclad commitment" to defending Indo-Pacific allies while talking directly to President Xi.

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The much anticipated Biden press conference from San Francisco is expected to begin momentarily, following the end of his closed-door, hours-long meeting with China's President Xi Jinping. While expectations are low in terms of a potential US-China breakthrough in relations, each side has specific and significant items they would like to see progress on.

WATCH LIVE from San Francisco: 

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Update(1530ET): Biden's opening remarks before going into the closed door session with Xi were to be expected:

Biden also emphasized that the leaders had to ensure that competition should not veer into conflict, which echoed remarks administration officials have delivered in the past over the countries' relations.

"I value our conversation because I think it's paramount that you and I understand each other clearly, leader to leader, with no misconceptions or miscommunication," Biden said.

But Xi's introductory words were more interesting:

The Chinese president said his country's relationship with the U.S. has "never been smooth sailing" over the last 50 years "yet it has kept moving forward" with twists and turns.

"It is unrealistic for one side to remodel the other, and conflict and confrontation has terrible consequences for both sides," he said. "The world at large is big enough for the two countries to succeed."


Meanwhile, "China is objecting to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation members incorporating sustainability and inclusivity into their trade and investment policies," Reuters reports.

A post summit live press conference is expected to happen late in the afternoon local time. The conversation is expected to take hours.

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Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with US President Joe Biden starting at 10:45am Wednesday Pacific time. The US side is giving a state visit-level reception for Xi.

The previously secret venue for the one-on-one meeting between presidents, on the sidelines of the summit of Asian-Pacific leaders, has as of Wednesday morning been disclosed as Filoli, a sprawling private estate located in Woodside, California - which lies about 25 miles south of San Francisco, seen below.

Filoli estate, via SCMP

The lush, quiet and secluded estate will be scene of an expected some 4 hours of talks between Xi and the 80-year old Biden.

As we've previewed, topics are likely to range from Biden's efforts to restore military-to-military communications, Taiwan tensions, managing economic competition, Ukraine, Gaza, and also reportedly Fentanyl at the forefront - to be pressed by the US side.

So far, it's the optics which have proven most controversial, from the moment senior officials - including Janet Yellen - were gathered at the airport to greet Xi's huge Air China jet on Tuesday. Biden had this to say going into Wednesday's crucial meeting, via APF:

China under Xi has 'real problems', Biden says on eve of summit.

Amazingly, here's a partial list and summary of the "no detail too small" preparations for Emperor President Xi's arrival:

A presidential meeting at an undisclosed location. Students lining the streets waving Chinese flags. A $2,000-per-plate dinner with the most powerful business executives in America.

Every aspect of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to California this week has been highly choreographed, down to what he sees outside the window during a motorcade ride and what camera angle he’s recorded from, according to people familiar with the planning. 

“There is no detail too small,” said Kurt Campbell, the White House coordinator for the Indo-Pacific.

Any meeting between two heads of state involves a degree of pomp and circumstance, but President Joe Biden’s long-awaited sit-down with Xi on Wednesday is the product of a painstaking process to accommodate China’s many requests. The behind-the-scenes effort is a sign of Beijing’s anxiety over the optics that could result from Xi’s first visit to the U.S. in six years.

Overall, China is looking for Xi’s trip to California to be seen as a “grand visit,” officials said.

Xi's motorcade flew past unusually pristine streets lined with students and supporters waiving Chinese flags, though there are reports of some sporadic protests popping up too:

Image via The San Francisco Standard: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s motorcade arrives at the St. Regis Hotel.

But here's the BEFORE...

Here's the AFTER... with the Chinese national anthem ringing out...

The rapid and almost miraculous clean-up of San Francisco streets comes after a series of demands made by Beijing:

They insisted that the meeting be held before a broader gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders in San Francisco this week and at a location entirely separate from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit site, two current and former U.S. officials said. China’s request was designed to elevate Xi’s stature above that of the other world leaders traveling to California this week, the officials said.

And entire roads and intersections have been closed off for Xi's extensive security perimeter:

Given the planned Biden-Xi meeting is scheduled to run for four hours, it remains to be seen whether the US president will be able to stay alert, awake and coherent for such a lengthy high stakes session.