President Joe Biden spoke on Thursday about the state of the Chinese economy but misquoted the data in his claims.
- President Biden spoke at an invitation-only high-ticket Democrat fundraiser at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Park City, Utah.
- During his speech, he claimed that China’s weak growth contributed to serious economic challenges.
- “China is in trouble,” Biden said. “They have got some problems. That’s not good because when bad folks have problems, they do bad things.”
- Biden referred to the Communist leaders as “bad folks” but reaffirmed he does not want to hurt US-China relations.
- Biden misquoted the country’s growth rate, calling it 2% when the second quarter rate was 6.3% and saying it has the “highest unemployment rate going.”
- He also criticized the Chinese government’s Belt and Road Initiative as the “debt and noose.”
Why It’s Important
President Biden’s comments were unusually barbed in light of recent months and repeated efforts to cool mutual hostility between the U.S. and China. As China continues to intensify military drills off the South China Sea and Taiwan, the administration has generally called for more open dialog with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The tone appears to be shifting in a more adversarial direction going into election season. Thursday’s comments were some of his most direct criticisms against Chinese leadership yet. They followed US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit to China in June, in which Biden subsequently called the Chinese president a “dictator.”
As East China Normal University Professor Josef Gregory Mahoney tells Bloomberg, such comments are unlikely to draw the ire of the Chinese Communist Party. It is expected that anti-China dog whistles will become more popular throughout the presidential election, but the government is used to far worse scrutiny from the Trump Administration.
Unfortunately, his comments were littered with factual inaccuracies, leaving major media websites like Bloomberg and Reuters scrutinizing his claims as misstatements.
“Biden is right that China has serious problems, but he’s wrong—and inflammatory—on the magnitude of those problems. Ahead of the 2024 election, brace for more incendiary language, as US politicians buy voter support at home at the price of additional risk in relations with Beijing,” says Bloomberg Economist Tom Orlik.
Backing Up A Bit
As we previously reported, China is entering a period of deflation as consumer and producer prices both came in negative for the month of July, as a drop in food prices and reduced demand from Western importers has contributed to deflation. The Chinese economy has struggled for nearly a year as Western investors flee and the job and real estate markets tighten.
On Wednesday, Biden signed an executive order prohibiting new U.S. investments in China working with technologies like semiconductor chips as part of its wider push to divest sensitive trade from mainland China. While officials castigated the ban as a deviation from trade norms, The Wall Street Journal notes that direct retaliation is unlikely, but the government could retaliate in other ways by imposing export restrictions on vital rare earth materials or minerals.