China responded Wednesday after President Biden called Chinese President Xi Jinping a dictator, criticizing the comment as “extremely absurd and irresponsible.”
During a fundraiser in California Tuesday night, Biden said Xi was embarrassed after the U.S. Air Force shot down the Chinese spy balloon: “The reason why Xi Jinping got very upset in terms of when I shot that balloon down with two box cars full of spy equipment in it was he didn’t know it was there. That’s a great embarrassment for dictators when they didn’t know what happened.”
“The U.S. remarks are extremely absurd and irresponsible. It is a blatant political provocation,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning responded at a daily briefing on Wednesday. “China expresses strong dissatisfaction and opposition.”
Mao said Biden’s comments at the fundraiser “go totally against facts and seriously violate diplomatic protocol, and severely infringe on China’s political dignity.”
During the private campaign reception in Kentfield, Biden also emphasized cooperation with China and Xi, although he admitted: “It’s going to take time.”
During the presser, Mao reiterated China’s official position that the balloon was used for meteorological research before it accidentally blew off course.
“The U.S. should have handled it in a calm and professional manner,” Mao stressed. “However, the U.S. distorted facts and used forces to hype up the incident, fully revealing its nature of bullying and hegemony.”
The traded barbs come a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken concluded a visit to Beijing, which included a meeting with Xi.
The diplomatic visit was intended to help ease tensions between the U.S. and China which have become strained amid contentions with Taiwan, the spy balloon and the discovery of a Chinese base in Cuba – marking a historical low in the relationship between the two global superpowers.
Blinken’s visit did not appear to have achieved any material results.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.