President Joe Biden touted his personal rapport with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday, saying he has spent more time with the Chinese Communist leader than any other world leader. Biden’s comments come as his administration has labeled China the “pacing challenge” facing U.S. foreign policy.
At a speech on Thursday to promote his student debt relief plan, Biden said, “Our best days are really ahead of us. We just have to remember who in God’s name we are. We’re the United States of America. There’s nothing — nothing, nothing beyond our capacity. And I mean it. We got to remember who we are.”
Biden then said, “I spent more time with Xi Jinping of China than any world leader has — when I was Vice President and when I was out of the office for four years when I was a professor, and then, now, as President. Sixty-eight hours, in terms of on the telephone or in person with him.”
“And he asked me when we were on the Tibetan Plateau, when I traveled 17-, 18,000 miles with him, He said to me — he said, ‘Can you define America for me?'” Biden continued. “I said, ‘Yes, in one word and please always remember. One word: possibilities.’”
The Biden administration’s messaging on China has been mixed.
Biden has repeatedly claimed to have traveled 17,000 miles with Xi while serving as vice president, despite this claim being untrue. A Washington Post’s fact-check has assessed Biden only traveled about 5,600 times with Xi as vice president.
Early on in the 2020 presidential election race, Biden said China was “not competition” for the United States. Later in the election cycle Biden said China is a “competitor” but not an “opponent” like Russia.
At the start of his presidency, Biden said the U.S. would “confront” China where necessary but “cooperate” where possible.
Last year, Xi referred to Biden as an “old friend” months after Biden told Xi “we know each other well, we’re not old friends.”
Earlier this year, Biden threatened China with “consequences” if it supported Russia’s war efforts in Ukraine.
Biden has also repeatedly vowed the U.S. would defend Taiwan, though each time his White House has gone on to say he was not communicating a change in U.S. policy with regards to China.