Biden calls China a ‘ticking time bomb’ over economic problems

President Joe Biden slammed China’s economic situation as “a ticking time bomb” on Thursday, his latest dig at Beijing even as his administration tries to strengthen relations with what it calls Washington’s top competitor.

Biden said China, the world’s second-largest economy after the United States, was “in trouble” because of slowing growth and that it had the “highest unemployment rate going.”

“That’s not good because when bad folks have problems, they do bad things,” he said at a political fundraiser in Park City, Utah, according to a pool report.

Biden’s remarks on Thursday echoed those at another fundraiser in June, when he called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “dictator” a day after Secretary of State Antony Blinken finished a high-stakes visit to Beijing. China hit back at the dictator remark, calling it “extremely absurd and irresponsible.”

Since then, Beijing has received Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and U.S. climate envoy John Kerry. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo is also planning a China trip.

The series of visits could lay the groundwork for a meeting between Biden and Xi in November, when Xi is expected to attend a summit of Asia-Pacific economies in San Francisco. The two leaders have not spoken since they met in person last November on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit in Indonesia.

China’s economy has recovered more slowly than expected since officials lifted strict “zero-Covid” restrictions late last year. GDP grew 6.3% in the second quarter compared with a year earlier, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

U.S. growth for the same quarter was 2.4%.

China reported an unemployment rate of 5.2% in June, higher than the 3.6% in the U.S. but lower than other G-20 economies including Italy and France.

China is struggling in particular with youth unemployment, which reached a record 21.3% in June — similar to the rate in countries such as Italy and Sweden.

On Wednesday, the National Bureau of Statistics reported a fall in consumer prices for the first time in two years, raising fears of deflation.

Biden also criticized China’s Belt and Road Initiative on Thursday, referring to the global infrastructure program as “debt and noose” because of the large loans developing countries often take on in exchange for Chinese investment.

But he said Washington didn’t want to ruin its relationship with Beijing.

“We aren’t looking for a fight with China,” Biden said. “I don’t want to hurt China, but we have to watch what they are doing.”

Biden signed an executive order on Wednesday that will restrict U.S. investment in some high-tech industries in China, including semiconductors and artificial intelligence. The Chinese Commerce Ministry said Thursday that it was “seriously concerned” about the order and that it reserved the right to take measures.

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