Biden warns China’s Xi sees autocracy as wave of the future

President Biden on Thursday warned that China’s President Xi Jinping sees autocracy as the wave of the future, offering wide-ranging reflections on his relationship with the Chinese leader and how it informs his administration’s approach to Beijing. 

The president made his remarks during his first press conference taking questions at the White House, emphasizing the need for global democracies to get on the “same page” in the face of China’s ambitions on the world stage. 

“I’ve known Xi Jinping for a long time. … He doesn’t have a democratic — with a small ‘d’ — bone in his body, but he’s a smart, smart guy,” the president said.  

 “He’s one of the guys, like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, who thinks that autocracy is the wave of the future — democracy can’t function in an ever complex world,” he added.

The president’s remarks inject a clear ideological schism between the U.S. and China at a time when relations between the two countries are at one of their lowest points ever.

“It is clear, absolutely clear … that this is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies,” the president said. “We have to prove democracy works.” 

The president’s remarks come following a contentious meeting in Alaska last week. Senior Chinese diplomats attacked the state of U.S. democracy at a summit with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan. 

The Biden administration wants to align with democratic allies to more forcefully call out Beijing’s bad behavior. 

“We have to have democracies working together,” the president said, but stressed that the alliances aren’t “anti-Chinese.” 

The president has also said he wants to host a summit of democracies sometime by the end of the year to get on the “same page” on pushing back on the rise of autocracies. 

Biden also provided new insight into the first phone call he held as president with Xi, which took place Feb. 10 and lasted for two hours. Biden said that he would not hesitate to call out Xi on human rights abuses and that Xi “understood” this. 

“The thing that I admire about dealing with Xi is he understands, he makes no pretense about not understanding what I’m saying any more than I do him,” Biden said.

Biden recalled telling Xi, “As long as you and your country continue to so blatantly violate human rights, we’re going to continue in an unrelenting way to call it to the attention of the world and make it clear what’s happening.

“And he understood that,” Biden said.

Tags Antony Blinken Bide presser China Jake Sullivan Joe Biden

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