WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden on Wednesday said his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping faces “enormous problems,” including a fragile economy.
In an interview with PBS NewsHour, Biden said China was constrained in its ability to confront the United States by the need to protect international trade and that Xi himself is in an unenviable position.
“Can you think of any other world leader who’d trade places with Xi Jinping? I can’t think of one,” Biden said.
“This man has enormous problems,” Biden said.
The Democrat, who frequently describes the US-China relationship as the most consequential in the world, added that Xi “has also great potential.”
However, Biden said “so far, he has an economy that is not functioning very well.”
According to Biden, Xi recognizes his limited ability for maneuver in confrontation with Western countries.
Pointing to China’s so far relatively muted support for ally Russia in its invasion of Ukraine, Biden said “everyone assumed that China would be all in with Russia” – but “they’re not all in.”
The reason, according to Biden, is that Xi has drawn lessons from the overwhelming Western response against Russia, including imposition of powerful economic sanctions.
“I called him this summer to say, ‘This is not a threat, just an observation – look what’s happened to Russia,’” Biden recalled.
Biden said he underlined in that conversation with Xi that 600 US corporations had quit Russia since its invasion began in Ukraine a year ago.
“I said, ‘You’ve told me all along that the reason why you need relationships with the United States and Europe is so that they invest in China.’ I said: ‘Who’s going to invest in China if you engage in the same kind of deal?’”
Biden met in person with Xi last November on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali for the first time since he became US president in 2021. They have also talked in five phone or video calls during that time.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week announced a last-minute cancelation of a trip to Beijing as tensions flared again over the appearance of a high-altitude Chinese balloon over the United States – and its shooting down by the US Air Force on Saturday.
The United States says the balloon, which flew over sensitive military sites, was an espionage device. China says the balloon was just studying weather.