Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared to wince and shake his head when President Biden referred to China’s President Xi Jinping as a “dictator” Wednesday — potentially upending months of tireless diplomacy to rebuild relations between the two countries.
Blinken, 61, physically recoiled and appeared to shake his head and fidget with his hands when Biden said Xi “is a dictator in the sense that he is the guy who runs the country that is a communist country … based on a form of government different than ours” at a solo press conference.
The indelicate remark came shortly after Biden, 80, met with Xi for four hours in San Francisco ahead of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference — marking the two leaders’ first in-person sit-down in a year.
Former Italian diplomat Marco Carnelos took to X to call out Blinken’s “desperate body language” in response to Biden’s statement.
“Twelve months of hard work & diplomacy thrown in the toilet with a simple word. WTF,” he wrote, followed by the face-palm emoji.
“Watch Tony Blinken’s body language when Biden says he thinks Xi is a dictator,” NBC News’ Ginger Gibson chimed in. “It’s like you can hear him sucking in his breath.”
The conservative news outlet Citizen Free Press added that “Blinken looked like he wanted to crawl into a hole when Biden said Xi is a dictator.”
Blinken is still cleaning up the fallout from when Biden referred to Xi as a dictator in June, prompting an excoriating response from the Chinese government.
The US and China have been slowly rebuilding relations since the fallout over former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022 and the controversy over the alleged Chinese spy balloon in February.
Biden mostly spoke positively about the meeting with Xi Wednesday, telling reporters that the Chinese president agreed to curtail the export of pill presses and deadly fentanyl-related compounds.
The summit also resulted in China and the US agreeing to resume military-to-military communications — though Xi, 70, warned Biden that the US “turning their back” on China is “not an option.”
NEW: Secretary of State Antony Blinken seemed on edge this week at APEC where President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
At one point, Blinken almost appeared to be crying while Biden was meeting with Xi.
In another clip, Blinken is clearly uneasy as Biden refers to… pic.twitter.com/eA5xkc9xOY
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) November 16, 2023