Home » Biden Wasn’t Joking When he Called Xi a ‘Dictator’, but He Often Veers Off From His Foreign Policy Script
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Biden Wasn’t Joking When he Called Xi a ‘Dictator’, but He Often Veers Off From His Foreign Policy Script

Charlie Chaplin turned out a hilarious lampoon of Adolf Hitler, with an anti-war satire and black comedy, as a Black and White (B&W) film, his very first using sound. It was released in America on 31 October 1940, before it joined World War II on the side of the Allies, but after WWII had been going already for a year.

Chaplin wrote, scored, produced, directed, and starred in it. Chaplin played both a poor Jewish barber and former soldier, living in a Ghetto, as well as the Great Dictator. The Dictator harangued, and the little Jewish barber mostly listened. The Great Dictator was Chaplin’s most commercially successful film, and was nominated for five Academy Awards.  The famous film still resonates, and was recognised later, as one of the most significant of the century.

Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and absolute ruler on his climb to power. But soon, he set about repurposing his image. He became Der Fuhrer, or Father (of the nation). He encouraged all in the Nazi Party or in his opinion, ‘patriots’, to see him as such.

US President Joe Biden has a method to his veering off his foreign office script. He has done it often enough with regard to China to not dismiss it as inadvertent gaffe.

American bipartisan delegations, including Congressmen, Senators, businessmen, and even the earlier Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, without reference to China, much to its annoyance.

In addition, and in the face of threatening Chinese military drills in the vicinity of Taiwan, and finger-wagging warnings to America, Biden persisted in repeatedly sending mixed messages.

For the third time, for example, in November 2021, just a day after a virtual summit with President Xi Jinping, Biden said Taiwan was independent, contradicting official US policy.

He repeated it, when asked by reporters, that Taiwan was independent and free to make its own decisions. He also said America would come to Taiwan’s defence if it were to be attacked by China.

The American foreign policy officials then routinely scurry around to reiterate there has been no change, and indeed it did accept China’s ‘One China’ Policy. However, it was obliged to attend to Taiwan’s security concerns. This charade goes on, with now, the European powers also sending representatives to Taiwan on visits without informing Beijing. All this no doubt raises Xi Jinping’s blood pressure. He is not used to being contradicted at all in the vastness of China, and no doubt wishes that the world too should recognise the greatness of his infallible leadership.

Taiwan, of course, makes almost all of the world’s high-end semiconductor chips, and until new value chains can be established, (not an easy task), it is of crucial strategic importance to America. And also to the rest of the world, in which very little works today without electronic chips.

The Biden administration has already banned Red Chinese access to the highest level of semiconductor chips, so that they can’t be used by China to purpose high-technology weapons against America.

Biden, it would appear, is deviating from the script to needle Xi Jinping. And certainly not because he is senile or suffering from dementia, as has been suggested by some who like to play a sympathetic hand on China.

He has done it again by calling President Xi Jinping a ‘dictator’ just a day after Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Beijing. Blinken, who went to China after five years, after a postponement or two, dragging his feet perhaps, was given a frosty reception by the Foreign Minister, the foreign policy chief above him, and Xi Jinping himself.

While China agreed to keep lines of communication open to avoid misunderstandings, it did not agree to a Blinken request for direct military-to-military communications. A telling picture showed Blinken in the middle of a conference table and Xi Jinping far away at another end of the table.

This crass attempt at highhandedness and to bully America, Chinese style, did not go down well with the No.1 economic and military power in the world. From the American point of view, China stands absolutely no chance of replacing it as the most influential power in the world.

Soon after, President Joe Biden called Xi Jinping a dictator at a fundraiser for wealthy donors for his re-election campaign, and refused to retract the statement when asked to clarify by reporters. He said it was ‘just not something I’m going to change very much’.

This despite a strongly written protest by the Chinese Ambassador to Washington, and criticism from other Chinese foreign ministry officials who called the remark ‘extremely absurd’ and ‘irresponsible’.

Xi Jinping is sensitive to being called out, called names, or being made fun of.

Earlier some wags on social media likened him to Winnie the Pooh, the beloved Bear, because he looks remarkably like that character as drawn. Xi reacted  nothing like the gentle Winnie might have. He promptly banned everything about Winnie the Pooh in China. Dissidents of any kind are not tolerated and no negative reportage is allowed in China.

But Biden was not joking when he called Xi a dictator in his calculated manner. He thought it would have little effect on prospects of meeting Xi face-to-face in the future. They are likely to meet in New Delhi for the G20 Summit Heads-of-State/Government in October 2023 for example.

Biden added ‘China has real economic difficulties,’ now, meaning post-Covid. There is no need to worry about China, he said, as if it was no threat to America at all.  It also implied that there is much wrong with the opaque Chinese financial system that the US administration knew about.

Biden also claimed Xi Jinping did not even know about the spy balloon over America that he had ordered to be shot down, suggesting Xi Jinping was out-of-touch.

The more muscular tone with regard to Xi Jinping and China may be part of election mode and largely aimed at his domestic audience. Biden is a very experienced politician, and does not want to appear soft on China with an eye on his Republican rivals.

Relations with China cannot be wished away by the US as trade stands, even now, at $ 700 billion between the two countries. There is irritation and lack of the old trust on both sides, but also much co-dependency. That is perhaps why the US is very keen to see Indo-US trade, currently at $ 195 billion, to rise to $ 500 billion as soon as possible. It is likely that several dependencies on China could be thereby reduced.  The progress on QUAD and AUKUS as well as the ramping up of the Indo-US relationship so spectacularly is rankling to Beijing.

However, as Steve Tsang Director of the China Institute at London University School of Oriental and African Studies said, ‘My sense is that Xi may not want to overreact and put the relationship back on ice again’.

Meanwhile Biden in California, extending the mockery, said  Xi ‘wants a relationship again’.

The Republican Party reaction from Mark Rubio was approving of Xi Jinping being called a dictator. It’s true, he can give himself as many terms as he wants, said Rubio. In March 2023, Xi secured a precedent breaking third-term as president, making Xi Jinping the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong.

Source : First Post