Just one day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken's visit to Beijing, President Biden referred to President Xi as a dictator, and the Chinese government's response was not long in coming.
Biden's reference to Xi Jinping as a dictator was something that, as the President of the United States knew, was to be expected, and it did not sit well with the ruling elite in China.
Of course, it is noteworthy that the President's words, which resumed the confrontational rhetoric, came just one day after Blinken's visit to Beijing went as well as could be expected.
Whether it was a political calculation (to avoid Republican accusations of being soft on China after the photo of Blinken with Xi) or simply a slip of the tongue, what Biden said at a fundraising event in California and the forceful response from Beijing demonstrate that the world's two largest economic powers remain entrenched in a dangerous path of mutual distrust.
The Chinese government wasted no time in responding to Biden's comment, calling it "extremely absurd and irresponsible."
"It is a blatant political provocation, and China expresses its total dissatisfaction and opposition," said Mao Ning, a spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
What Biden said about Xi to trigger China's forceful response was off-camera, while he was talking about the controversial Chinese spy balloon that flew over the United States in February and fell into the sea after being shot down by an Air Force fighter.
"The reason Xi Jinping was so angry when I shot down the balloon with two cars full of spying equipment was that he didn't know it was there," Biden said.
"That's a big embarrassment for dictators when they don't know what's going on," he added, apparently referring to Xi.