President Joe Biden defended his critical remarks about China, including labeling President Xi Jinping a tyrant, on Thursday, claiming that his views will not harm relations between the two countries and that he still plans to meet with Xi in the future.
Biden declared that he “just isn’t going to change very much” from making direct remarks about China.
In addition, during the controversy surrounding a Chinese spy balloon last winter, Biden painted the Chinese president as out of touch at a campaign fundraiser on Tuesday and discounted China’s “real economic difficulties.”
The comments caused a fresh schism shortly after Secretary of State Antony Blinken finished a trip to Beijing that was intended to mend fences and enhance communication with China. Biden wasn’t discouraged, though.
“I expect to be meeting with President Xi sometime in the future, near-term. And I don’t think it’s had any real consequence,” he said, speaking during a White House news conference alongside visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
However, only a few hours earlier, the Chinese embassy in Washington claimed to have delivered a formal protest, with Chinese Ambassador Xie Feng telling top State Department and White House officials that Washington “should take earnest actions to undo the negative impact” of what Biden said or “bear all the consequences.”
“With the latest irresponsible remarks about China’s political system and its top leader, people cannot help but question the sincerity of the U.S. side” in seeking to stabilize relations, the embassy statement said. “The Chinese government and people do not accept any political provocation against China’s top leader and will resolutely respond.”
The ambassador’s letter to the Biden administration has more significance because it is an official government-to-government exchange than the critical remarks made to reporters the day before. China did not provide any additional information regarding the ambassador’s message delivery, the consequences, or whether it expected the Biden administration to issue an apology.
In recent years, diplomatic tensions between China and the U.S. have fluctuated. To express its disapproval, China has taken a variety of actions, including as severing diplomatic ties and holding military exercises off Taiwan.
Officials from the Biden administration defended Biden’s comments on Wednesday, claiming that the president has made a point of distinguishing between the world’s democracies and autocracies. On Thursday, the State Department stated that it does not comment on off-the-record diplomatic conversations.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen addressed the latest rift Thursday at an unrelated news conference in Paris, saying, “with respect to the comments, I think President Biden and I both believe it’s critical to maintain communication … to clear up misperceptions, miscalculations. We need to work together where possible.”
“But we have disagreements, and we are also forthright in recognizing we do have disagreements,” she added.
Recently, Yellen has pushed for bettering ties between the US and China, claiming that cooperation is essential to preserving global stability.
Speaking as a two-day conference on enhancing the global financial response to poverty and climate change began in Paris, Yellen expressed her “certainly pleasedness to see China participating in this summit.”
In order to debate ideas to restructure the international financial system and address the debt, climate change, and poverty issues, particularly for developing countries, dozens of leaders of state and government, world finance officials, and activists gathered in the French capital. Chinese Premier Li Qiang was one of them.
“I believe it’s important, as President Biden does, that the world’s two largest economies are … working together in addressing global challenges,” Yellen said.
She also underlined the importance of debt restructuring for the United States.
Yellen urged all creditors to engage in negotiations to reduce the load as an increasing number of nations deal with unsustainable debt that is made worse by the effects of climate change. China is the largest government lender in the world.
Yellen mentioned Zambia, the southern African nation she visited in January, in her statement about the debt negotiations, saying she was “encouraged by progress” and hoped “debt treatment can move forward soon.” She said nothing more specific.
She continued, “Other urgent pending cases must also move forward quickly,” noting Ghana and Sri Lanka.