At the conclusion of his press conference Wednesday, Biden responded to a question from a US journalist about whether he stood by a comment he made in June calling Xi a dictator.The remark was denounced at the time by the Chinese foreign ministry, which called the comment “absurd” and a “provocation.”
“Well, look, he is,” Biden said Wednesday. “I mean he’s a dictator in the sense that he is the guy who runs a country which is a communist country based on a form of government totally different from ours.”
The remark could undermine gains made during four hours of talks between the Chinese and US presidents. Biden said the two countries had come to important agreements on fighting fentanyl distribution, resuming military to military communications at a senior level, and establishing an understanding where either leader could call the other directly to resolve any miscommunication.
“I believe they were some of the most constructive and productive discussions we’ve had,” Biden said.
Aides described the talks as warm and personal, with Biden at one point flipping open his Apple Inc iPhone to take Xi on a trip down memory lane.
“Do you know this young man?” Biden asked the Chinese leader, according to foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, who posted the exchange on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
“Oh yes,” said President Xi, according to the post. “This was 38 years ago.”
Hua posted a photograph of the two leaders smiling and looking relaxed at the country house south of San Francisco where they met. Another image in her post showed Xi in front of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge bridge in 1985, on his first public trip to America.
A US official said Xi also jokingly noted Biden, 80, has a birthday next week, and said it was a reminder that his own wife also had an upcoming celebration.
Upon meeting on Wednesday morning, Xi and Biden held each others hands in a warm public gesture that’s rare for the Chinese leader. They two men were later filmed taking a walk through the gardens of the estate south of San Francisco where they held their summit.
At the press conference, Biden complimented Xi as being forthright in their talks, while stopping short of saying he trusted the Chinese leader.
“Trust but verify, as the old saying goes, that’s where I am,” Biden said.