Biden calls China economy a ‘ticking time bomb,’ misstates GDP growth

By Nandita Bose and Jeff Mason

SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday called China a “ticking time bomb” because of economic challenges including weak growth, but misquoted the country’s growth rate.

“They have got some problems. That’s not good because when bad folks have problems, they do bad things,” Biden said at a political fundraiser in Utah.

Biden said on Thursday he did not want to hurt China and wanted a rational relationship with the country, but had a dire prediction about the country’s future.

“China is a ticking time bomb … China is in trouble. China was growing at 8% a year to maintain growth. Now close to 2% a year,” he said.

Data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics showed the economy grew 4.5% in the first quarter and 6.3% in the second, with gross domestic product up just 0.8% in April-June from the previous quarter after a 2.2% expansion in the first quarter.

There was no immediate comment from China’s foreign ministry.

Biden’s remarks were reminiscent of comments he made at another fundraiser in June when he referred to President Xi Jinping as a “dictator.” China called those remarks a provocation.

Those comments came shortly after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken completed a visit to China aimed at stabilizing relations that Beijing described as being at their lowest point since formal ties were established in 1979.

On Wednesday, Biden signed an executive order that will prohibit some new U.S. investment in China in sensitive technologies like computer chips. China, which has the world’s second largest economy, said it was “gravely concerned” about the order and reserved the right to take measures.

China’s consumer sector fell into deflation and factory-gate prices extended declines in July, contrasting with inflation elsewhere in the world.

The United States, the world’s largest economy, has fought high inflation and seen a robust labor market.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose, writing by Jeff Mason; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Heather Timmons, Philippa Fletcher)