China: I hope the U.S. side will look at China’s development with a more peaceful and rational mindset
“The United States is moving forward again, turning crises into opportunities and setbacks into strengths,” said President Joe Biden in his first address to a joint session of the House and Senate in Congress, touting his achievements in the 100 days of his Administration, while painting an ambitious blueprint for national development for the American people. As the most frequently mentioned country in the speech, China was listed by Biden as the main competitor of the U.S. in “winning the 21st century” and the competition between the U.S. and China projected as a competition between “democracy and autocracy”. The USA Today newspaper commented on the 29th that Biden’s message to China is that the United States is back and the “free ride” is over.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a regular press conference on Biden’s speech on the 29th that some people on the U.S. side are talking about China, which in the end is a Cold war zero-sum mindset of ideological bias, and reflects lack of self-confidence. I hope that the U.S. side does not have a “sour grapes” mentality towards China, and that it takes a more peaceful and rational attitude towards China’s development, to show what a great power should look like.
“The United States is ready to take off”
Biden’s speech began at 9 p.m. ET on the 28th and lasted one hour and seven minutes. Due to the epidemic restrictions, only 200 members of Congress relied on a lottery to get a spot to listen to the speech on the floor, and only the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense were present among the abinet members. Vice President Harris, House Speaker Pelosi, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts also attended the live event.
At the beginning of his speech, Biden noted that the United States had been through many crises, and after 100 days in office, he was confident that he could report to the American people that “America is ready to take off”.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Biden tried to set a hopeful tone. He began by highlighting his Administration’s accomplishments in dealing with the epidemic. He said the U.S. has now received more than 220 million doses of the new corona vaccine, far exceeding the goal he set when he took office. Today 90 percent of Americans live less than five miles from a vaccination site. Next, Biden focused on his economic agenda. After signing the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan in March and proposing the $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan in early April, Biden unveiled the last item on his nearly $6 trillion economic agenda, the $1.8 trillion American Family Plan, in this speech on the evening of the 28th.
“The American Family Plan promises to provide funding for child care, universal preschool, and two years of tuition-free community college education for all Americans. Biden emphasized the need to spend public money on education and space exploration to accomplish “great things. In addition, Biden also promised to add millions of jobs, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour, and lower health care spending for Americans. Other key topics such as gun control and immigration were also alluded to in the speech. Where will the money come from? “It’s time for corporations and the wealthiest Americans to take their fair share,” Biden said, vowing to raise heavy taxes on the richest 1 percent of Americans while promising not to increase the tax burden on people earning less than $400,000 a year. Biden said America was created by the middle class, not the bankers on Wall Street.
2 1/2 minute mention of China
CNN tracked the topics covered in Biden’s speech, saying that 2 1/2 minutes were spent talking about China. Biden not only focused on describing foreign policy with China, but also mentioned China when talking about education, technology, jobs, climate and other issues. “Biden shows toughness to China in first Congressional Address,” Reuters said of Biden’s speech, which was mainly about domestic policy but focused more on China than any other country in terms of specific policy details.
In the foreign policy section, Biden referred to his previous travels and talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping and a two-hour call with him after he took over in the White House. “I told President Xi that we will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific region, just like we do with NATO in Europe. Not to provoke conflict, but to prevent conflict”. He said “China is extremely serious about being the most prominent and important country in the world” and “they believe that democracies cannot compete with authoritarian regimes”. Biden said he told Xi, “We welcome competition, but we will not seek conflict. I made it very clear that I will defend American interests across the board”.
Speaking of job creation, Biden said there is no reason why the blades for wind turbines cannot be made in Pittsburgh but only in Beijing. And that all investments in the American Jobs Initiative will be guided by one principle: “Buy American.” Referring to the U.S. as “winning the 21st century,” the only competitor he named was China, “which the U.S. is competing against, along with other countries”. He added that the U.S. spends less than 1 percent of its GDP on high-tech research and development, while China and other countries are catching up fast. “We can’t be so busy competing with each other that we forget to compete with the rest of the world to win the 21st century”.
Wang Wenbin said on Biden’s speech on the 29th that it is also normal for China and the United States to have competition in some fields, but this competition should be a track and field race where you catch up with me, not a gladiatorial race where you die and I live.
Song Guoyou, Deputy Director of the Center for American Studies at Fudan University, told the Huan Qiu Shi Bao that Biden is still pushing his domestic economic agenda, especially making sure his infrastructure bill gets passed, by stoking and exaggerating the competition with China, which is however a rather hackneyed formula. As State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently said, the new U.S. Administration’s policy toward China has not yet escaped the shadow of the previous Administration. Russia is another geopolitical rival mentioned by Biden. He warned of the consequences of Russian “interference in the U.S. election” and “cyberattacks” on the U.S. government and businesses, but that Washington did not seek to escalate the conflict. Biden also said he wanted to confront Iran and North Korea with “diplomacy and tough deterrence”.
“It’s impossible to win cross-party support”
After Biden’s speech, Scott, an African-American U.S. Senator from South Carolina, delivered a rebuttal speech on behalf of the Republican Party. Scott stated, “Our President seems like a nice guy. His speech was full of nice words. But three months on, the actions of the President and his party are dividing us further”. Scott criticized Biden and the Democrats for proposing a $1.9 trillion bailout plan that did not receive any Republican support and then going on to propose a jobs and family plan totaling about $4 trillion that “far exceeds what is actually needed”. Alaska U.S. Senator Murkowski was one of the few Republicans to applaud Biden’s speech, but she also told the Wall Street Journal after the meeting that Biden’s spending plan was too costly and “unlikely to win cross-party support”.
CBS reported on the 29th that 85 percent of Americans who watched Biden’s first Congressional Address approved of his speech, while only 15 percent opposed it. Most viewers said it made them feel optimistic about the United States, especially on the U.S. first quarter GDP growth of 6.4 percent. But a New York Post editorial of the 29th slammed Biden’s speech as “dropping a bombshell” and “full of platitudes” and “empty rhetoric about unity. The editorial said that Biden’s advocacy of “Buy American” is entirely his predecessor’s idea, and that while Biden has shown a tough posture militarily, the Defense Department is the only federal agency he doesn’t want to spend more money on.
Song Guoyou said that many of Biden’s ideas are ambitious, and that these plans will certainly face budgetary constraints. However, Biden’s speech does give a good perspective that the country needs to expand its investment in education and technology, etc., if it wants to achieve lasting development and be competitive.
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