A day after top US diplomat Antony Blinken visited Beijing to help normalize bilateral relations, which China claims are at their lowest point since formal ties were established, US President Joe Biden on Tuesday referred to Xi Jinping as a dictator.
When Blinken stated on Monday that the "chapter" should be closed, Biden added that Xi was deeply embarrassed when a suspected Chinese spy balloon was blown off course over US airspace at the beginning of this year.
Given that Xi had just won a record-breaking third term as president and leader of the Communist Party, it was unclear why Biden made the remarks about him. Xi is currently the most powerful person in China since Mao Zedong.
At a fundraiser in California, Biden said, "Xi Jinping didn't know it was there, which is why he got very upset when I shot down that balloon with two box cars full of spy gear in it.
"That causes dictators a lot of embarrassment. when they were unaware of what had happened. That wasn't intended to go in the direction it did. The ship was blown off course, said Biden.
Additionally, Biden stated that China "has real economic difficulties."
Biden's remarks are not likely to be well received in Beijing and could jeopardize efforts by both countries to put their relationship back on a more stable footing after the balloon incident. Xi, who met with Blinken on Monday, has not publicly responded to them.