- Biden's comment at a Tuesday fundraiser comes just days after Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up his first official visit to Beijing.
- That trip was aimed at mending ties between the two global powers that have hit rock bottom after the U.S. in February shot down what it described as a surveillance balloon — a claim China denies.
U.S. President Joe Biden referred to Chinese President Xi Jinping as a dictator in comments underscoring the tricky balance of managing ties with an assertive global rival while appealing to domestic audiences as he seeks re-election.
Biden's comment at a Tuesday fundraiser comes just a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken wrapped up his first official visit to Beijing.
That trip was aimed at mending ties between the two global powers that have hit rock bottom after the U.S. in February shot down what it described as a surveillance balloon — a claim China denies — off the coast of South Carolina.
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"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 is he didn't know it was there," Biden told a fundraiser in Kentfield, California, in support of his bid for a second presidential term at the 2024 elections.
"That was the great embarrassment for dictators, when they didn't know what happened. That wasn't supposed to be going where it was," he added.
China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs could not be immediately reached for comment when contacted by CNBC.
Blinken postponed the Beijing trip, which was originally scheduled for February, after the stray balloon incident. His visit over the weekend marked a resumption of high-level U.S.-China government meetings after a tense four-plus months.
While his mission was largely seen as successful in getting the two global powers communicating again, Blinken was unable to revive military-to-military talks with China.
"We're in a situation now where he wants to have a relationship again," Biden said. "Antony Blinken just went over there ... did a good job and it's going to take time," Biden said late Tuesday.