Just days after their nations hailed modest progress in lowering tensions, US President Joe Biden has defended calling Chinese President Xi Jinping a "dictator".
Biden stated that his direct remarks about China are "just not something I'm going to change very much" during a press conference he held alongside Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday.
"I anticipate having a meeting with President Xi in the near future. And I don't believe it has had any real repercussions," he added.
The "dictator" remark allegedly occurred earlier this week during a campaign fundraiser in California. During the incident involving a Chinese spy balloon drifting over the US, Biden claimed that the Chinese leader was unaware of it.
"That causes dictators a lot of embarrassment. At the fundraiser, Biden said, "When they were unaware of what had occurred. "That wasn't intended to go in the direction it did. It had its course blown off.
The announcement was made the day after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken returned from Beijing. Blinken was the highest-ranking government representative to travel to the nation since Biden assumed office in January 2021.
During the visit, which was intended to lay the groundwork for a potential official meeting between Biden and Xi, both sides reported modest success in reducing tensions.
China's embassy in Washington announced on Thursday that it had officially protested Biden's remarks.
People "cannot help but doubt the sincerity of the US side" given the most recent careless comments made about China's political system and its supreme leader, the embassy said in a statement.
"The Chinese government and people do not accept any political provocation against China's top leader and will resolutely respond," it continued.
Senior US officials were previously warned by the Chinese ambassador, Xie Feng, on Wednesday that they either "should take earnest actions to undo the negative impact" of Biden's remarks or "bear all the consequences."
It was unclear from the ambassador's message whether Beijing expected an apology from the Biden administration or what the repercussions would be.
Officials from the Biden administration defended Biden's comments on Wednesday, claiming that the president has made a point of distinguishing between democracies and autocracies around the world.
At a separate news conference on Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen addressed Biden's remarks as well. Yellen has previously stated that maintaining good relations with China is crucial for maintaining global stability.
Regarding the remarks, I believe that President Biden and I both agree that it's important to keep the lines of communication open in order to dispel misunderstandings and errors in judgment. Wherever we can, we must cooperate, she said.
However, she continued, "We do have disagreements, and we are honest in admitting that we do."