WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden ominously called China a “ticking time bomb,” warning “bad folks” can “do bad things,” according to a pool report of the Thursday fundraiser.
The full context of Biden’s menacing forecast was not clear, though the pool report said he noted China’s high unemployment and aging population.
“When bad folks have problems, they do bad things,” Biden said at the Park City, Utah, home of Mark Gilbert, a former US ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa.
The 80-year-old president also said he wanted to have a “rational relationship with China,” declaring “I don’t want to hurt China, but I’m watching,” according to the pool report.
It’s unclear what exact flashpoints Biden may have been considering, though US officials fear Chinese President Xi Jinping may one day attempt to end Taiwan’s de facto independence by force, and unify the island with the Communist-controlled mainland.
The White House has set “pen and pad” ground rules for pool reporters allowed into Biden’s fundraisers, which can delay the dissemination of remarks that are ultimately put into official transcripts.
Biden is known to be more candid with audiences at fundraisers — even stoking a diplomatic spat with Beijing by referring to Xi as a “dictator” at a June forum with donors.
Biden has been criticized by Republicans for not taking a more forceful approach toward China on issues such as fentanyl exports that have caused record-high US overdose deaths.
The largely China-sourced chemical killed an estimated 75,000 Americans in 2022 — an all-time record — after killing 71,000 in 2021, roughly 58,000 in 2020, more than 36,000 in 2019 and about 31,000 in 2018.
The president’s critics also note he rarely pushes Beijing for more transparency on the origins of COVID-19, which killed more than 1 million Americans after potentially leaking from a Wuhan, China, laboratory doing risky research.
Biden’s tough words about China come as House Republicans move closer to launching an impeachment inquiry into his role in son Hunter and brother James Biden’s foreign business dealings, including a pair of ventures in China.
“I believe that China has paid him a fortune,” former President Donald Trump said in a Wednesday interview with Newsmax. “I’ve never seen anybody so weak on China.”
Trump, who’s seeking a rematch against Biden in the 2024 election, derided his successor as a “Manchurian candidate.”
Then-second son Hunter Biden co-founded Chinese state-backed investment fund BHR Partners in 2013 — within 12 days of traveling to Beijing aboard Air Force Two with his father for an official visit.
Joe Biden had coffee with BHR CEO Jonathan Li during the December 2013 trip and Hunter later put Li on speaker phone with his father during a subsequent visit by the first son to China, Hunter’s former partner Devon Archer told the House Oversight Committee last week.
Joe Biden also wrote college recommendation letters for Li’s children.
Hunter held a 10% stake in BHR through at least 2021 and he and the White House have refused to provide transparency into the terms of his alleged divestment.
Joe Biden also allegedly was directly involved in a second Chinese-government linked venture with the company CEFC China Energy, a since-defunct reputed cog in Beijing’s “Belt and Road” foreign influence campaign.
State Energy HK, an affiliate of CEFC, transferred $3 million on March 1, 2017, to Hunter’s business partner Rob Walker, who in turn transferred a combined $1,065,692 to Hunter Biden and his brother Beau’s widow Hallie Biden, according to bank records released by the House Oversight Committee.
Joe Biden allegedly met twice in 2017 with his relatives’ associates and was listed as a participant on an October 2017 call about CEFC’s attempt to buy US natural gas.
A May 2017 email penciled in the “big guy” for a 10% cut in the CEFC venture. Two Hunter Biden business partners identified Joe Biden as that big guy.
In a July 30, 2017, WhatsApp message, Hunter wrote “I’m sitting here with my father” and threatened a CEFC associate with his dad’s wrath if a deal was aborted. Within 10 days, CEFC transferred $100,000 and then $5 million to Biden-linked accounts, according to a 2020 report by Senate committees.
The CEFC relationship is believed to have started in 2015 when Joe Biden was vice president.