Oops. Joe Biden mixes up Chinese leaders, refers to Deng Xiaoping instead of Xi Jinping

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Deng, China’s paramount leader throughout the 1980s, died more than 2½ decades ago and the reference was meant to be Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The White House transcript of Biden’s remarks was later changed to refer to Xi.

But not before users on X, formerly known as Twitter, reposted clips of the speech and left teasing comments about the 81-year-old US leader.

Former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping died in 1997. Photo: AFP

A handful of posts about Biden’s gaffe also appeared on the Chinese social media platform Weibo, where the censorship is tight. One post attracted more than 100 comments.

“His staff must be scared to death,” one user said, suggesting Biden’s team would be worried about damage to the US president’s election campaign.

“There is still a generation between [Biden and Deng]. How could they chat in the Himalayas?” another wrote.

Also corrected in the White House transcript was a mistaken reference to former South Korean president Moon Jae-in instead of his successor Yoon Suk-yeol.

Consensus no more? Democrats start to split from Republicans on China policy

Biden did meet Deng when he was at China’s helm. Biden was a senator in April 1979 when he went to China as part of the first US congressional delegation to the country since the founding of the People’s Republic.

Biden has also frequently mentioned his conversations with Xi, saying they have met many times and he has known the Chinese leader well since both of them were vice-presidents.

“I’ve long said – and I mean this – I was on the Tibetan Plateau with Xi Jinping. I travelled 17,000 miles with him,” the US president said in a speech in Chicago in June.

“I’ve spoken with him more than any other head of state because it started when I was vice-president and president Hu [Jintao] was the president, and he was the vice-president.”

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