President Biden said Thursday that the United States has “real differences with Beijing,” one day after he after he held an hourslong meeting with President Xi Jinping of China at a moment of deep tension between the two countries.
Speaking to executives at the APEC summit in San Francisco, Mr. Biden noted that he and Mr. Xi had agreed to resume military to military communication to “reduce the risk of miscalculation” — a line that got a round of applause from the room.
“We have real differences with Beijing,” Mr. Biden said. “We are going to continue to address them with smart policies and strong diplomacy.”
Mr. Biden also stressed that a strong U.S. economy was helping the Indo-Pacific region. The president has been frustrated that positive news about the U.S. economy has not seemed to resonate with the public, so on Thursday he took the opportunity to tick through the numbers.
The American economy grew by 4.9 percent last quarter. Unemployment has been under 4 percent for the past 21 months. Inflation has come down by 65 percent — with “more to do” to lower it, he said.
“I acknowledge there’s a disconnect between the numbers and how people feel about their place in the world right now,” Mr. Biden said. “We can deal with the second part as well.”
In his remarks, Mr. Biden announced that American businesses have invested $40 billion into APEC economies this year, and he encouraged other leaders to enact labor protections for workers.
The president participated in a planning lunch with leaders from other APEC economies, with topics including job creation, supply chain stability and clean energy. One portion of the planned agenda was missing: Earlier this week, the Biden administration pulled back on plans to announce the conclusion of substantial portions of a new trade pact after several top Democratic lawmakers threatened to oppose the deal.
Mr. Biden joined the summit, a group of 21 economies that surround the Pacific Ocean, one day after a lengthy meeting with Mr. Xi. Besides the military agreement, the two agreed to work to regulate the production of compounds used to make fentanyl, a driver of the U.S. opioid epidemic.
Mr. Biden and his advisers say that time will tell if those agreements endure, and the first test came before Mr. Biden left the site of the summit. In a news conference with reporters on Wednesday, the president reaffirmed his belief that Mr. Xi is a dictator, which infuriated the Chinese over the summer when he first used the term.
“Well, look, he is,” Mr. Biden said. “I mean, he’s a dictator in the sense that he — he is a guy who runs a country that — it’s a communist country that is based on a form of government totally different than ours.”
Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Chinese foreign ministry, called Mr. Biden’s comment “extremely wrong.” Still, at a dinner with American billionaires and executives held later Wednesday, Mr. Xi seemed intent on presenting his country as a willing “partner and friend” to the United States.
“The No. 1 question for us is: Are we adversaries or partners?” Mr. Xi asked. “China is ready to be a partner and friend of the United States.”