US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday he had not changed his view that Chinese President Xi Jinping was effectively a dictator, a comment likely to land with a thud in Beijing after the two leaders held straightforward summit talks after months of preparation.
Biden held a solo news conference after four hours of talks with Xi on the outskirts of San Francisco. At the end of the news conference, he was asked whether he still held the view that Xi was a dictator, something he said in June.
"Look, he is. He's a dictator in the sense that he's a guy who runs a country that is a communist country that's based on a form of government totally different than ours," Biden said.
Last March Xi clinched a third term as president when nearly 3,000 members of China's rubber-stamp parliament, the National People's Congress, voted unanimously for him in an election in which there was no other candidate.
Xi is considered the most powerful Chinese leader since Mao Zedong, after a decade of consolidating power in policy-making and the military, and stifling media freedoms.
There was no immediate reaction from the Chinese delegation, which had come to the United States to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. Hundreds of critics of Beijing marched through the city's downtown around noon, chanting "free Tibet" and "free Hong Kong."
When Biden made a similar dictator reference in June, China called the remarks absurd and a provocation. But the spat did not prevent the two sides from holding extensive talks aimed at improving strained relations, which culminated in Wednesday's meeting.
Still, Biden's opinion of the Communist Party was a topic of the Wednesday meeting. Xi told Biden that the negative views of the Communist Party in the United States were unfair, a US official told reporters after the meeting.