Biden Targets China During State of Union Speech

BEIJING — U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday criticized China’s “unfair economic practices” and insisted he has done a better job standing up to Beijing than did former President Donald Trump, his rival in this year’s presidential election.

In his State of the Union address, Biden also touted other aspects of his China policy, including “standing up for peace and stability in the Taiwan Straits” and revitalizing “our partnerships and alliances in the Pacific.”

“I’ve made sure that the most advanced American technologies can’t be used in China … frankly for all his tough talk on China, it never occurred to my predecessor to do any of that,” Biden added.

Biden’s China comments, which made up only a brief part of his nationally televised speech, come a day after Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi escalated his country’s verbal attacks on the United States.

On the sidelines of an annual meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, Wang accused the United States of trying to contain China through sanctions, and insisted that Washington has “wrong perceptions” about Beijing.

“The means to suppress China are constantly updated, the list of unilateral sanctions is constantly extended, and the desire to inflict punishment on China has reached an unimaginable level,” said Wang during what appeared to be a tightly scripted interaction with local and foreign media.

Wang’s comments were a contrast from September, when Biden met Chinese President Xi Jinping in California. At that meeting, both sides agreed to restart dialogue and cooperate on several initiatives, including to counter the flow of fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic opioid, into the United States.

While Wang acknowledged that “some progress” was made at what he called the “historic meeting,” he accused the United States of breaking some of its promises.

“If the United States always says one thing and does another, where will its credibility be as a major country? If the United States is nervous and anxious whenever it hears the word ‘China,’ where is the self-confidence of a major country?” Wang said.

Even as high-level talks resumed, the United States has expanded sanctions against China on a range of issues, from human rights abuses to its relations with Russia. U.S.-China ties are also strained over a wide range of other issues, including China’s behavior in disputed areas of the South China Sea, its military intimidation of Taiwan, and a growing U.S.-China technological competition.

Political cudgel

In his speech Thursday, Biden reiterated that he wants “competition with China, but not conflict,” while noting that the United States is “in a stronger position to win the competition for the 21st century against China or anyone else for that matter.”

“For years, I’ve heard many of my Republican and Democratic friends say that China is on the rise and America is falling behind. They’ve got it backwards … America is rising,” Biden said.

“We have the best economy in the world. And since I’ve come to office, our GDP is up. Our trade deficit with China is down to the lowest point in over a decade,” he added.

China is expected to get more public attention as the U.S. presidential election campaign intensifies. On Thursday, both Biden, a Democrat, and U.S. Senator Katie Britt, who delivered the Republican response, used China to attack their political opponents.

“The Chinese Communist Party is undercutting America’s workers. China is buying up our farmland, spying on our military installations, and spreading propaganda through the likes of TikTok,” Britt said, referring to the popular video-sharing social media app owned by a Chinese company.

“The CCP knows that if it conquers the minds of our next generation, it conquers America,” Britt said. “And what does President Biden do? He bans TikTok for government employees, but creates an account for his own campaign.”

U.S. lawmakers are making a renewed push to pass legislation that would effectively force Beijing-based ByteDance to sell TikTok within six months or face a U.S. ban. Some U.S. lawmakers warn ByteDance could pass private information about U.S. users to China’s Communist Party – an allegation rejected by the company’s CEO. Previous attempts to ban TikTok have been unsuccessful.

But despite recent developments, U.S.-China relations remain more stable than in past years, said Wang Huiyao, the founder and president of the Beijing-based Center for China and Globalization.

“We don’t want to see a downward spiral like we used to have. Because if that happens, that could be very dangerous for not only the U.S. and China, but for the world,” Wang told VOA during an interview at his office.

“I’m still cautiously optimistic,” Wang said. “Because people realize that [after] the last six, seven years, if the U.S. and China really get into a very ugly situation, then the whole world is finished.”

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