Former national security adviser H.R. McMaster accused President Biden of "bigotry masquerading as cultural sensitivity," following a town hall event where the president addressed China’s human rights abuses.
Biden was asked about human rights atrocities carried out against the Uyghur populations in Western China.
"If you know anything about Chinese history, it has always been, the time when China has been victimized by the outer world, is when they haven't been unified at home," Biden said, noting the simplicity in that generalization. "The central principle of Xi Jinping is that there must be a united tightly-controlled China," he added.
Biden told the town hall host, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, that he understands that this is why Chinese President Xi Jinping acts in a manner that he later described as "xenophobic."
Biden said he told Xi that as a U.S. president, he is obligated to "speak out against what he's doing in Hong Kong, what he's doing with the Uyghurs in Western mountains of China and Taiwan."
"Culturally, there are different norms in each country and their leaders are expected to follow," he added.
But McMaster, who served as National Security Advisor under President Trump, took issue with the president’s attempts to explain Chinese policy.
"President Biden on the town hall, I mean he made a big mistake," McMaster said during a virtual Republican Study Committee Thursday, reported The Washington Post. "He’s like, ‘Well, they have different cultural norms.’ You could call that bigotry masquerading as cultural sensitivity."
Biden sought to assure that "there will be repercussions for China" and he will continue to "reassert our role as spokespersons for human rights," but several Republicans took issue with Biden’s attitude toward China.
The committee, a group comprised of 150 Republicans and the largest conservative caucus in the House, praised Donald Trump as "the first president to take on Communist China in a generation."
"The Biden administration has already taken a number of disastrous steps to undo President Trump's success in countering China," the Republican Study Committee charged in memo earlier this week. "The Biden team so far has exhibited a pattern of weakness and a return to Obama's failed approach of engaging rather than holding China accountable for its bad behavior."
On the last day before vacating the White House, the Trump administration declared that the Chinese government had committed crimes against humanity and genocide in their continual abuses against the Uyghurs.
The Biden administration has yet to formally classify China’s actions as genocide since entering the White House late last month, though Biden’s team did refer to the atrocities as genocide while on the campaign trail.
China has repeatedly denied any mistreatment of the Uyghurs and blame the media for unobjective reporting and false accounts.