China-centric: Biden’s first 100 days in office
In an address to U.S. Congress last week, President Joe Biden discussed his first 100 days in office. It was a critical period considering the ongoing global pandemic and deep divisions in American society.
The speech was similar to earlier speeches in message. But this time, instead of declaring that “America is back,” the president opted to announce that “America is on the move again.”
Biden spent a large portion of his speech going over the achievements made during his first 100 days and his plans for the rest of his term. He drew attention to the fight against COVID-19, categorizing it as one of the greatest accomplishments of the administration’s first 100 days. He emphasized both the declining number of cases in the country and the vast number of vaccinations carried out in the process.
In addition, the U.S. president reiterated his intention to help other countries in the fight against the deadly pandemic.
Biden also mentioned his new plans to rebuild U.S. infrastructure and help American families. As expected by many observers, Biden’s speech primarily focused on domestic politics and economic recovery.
However, throughout the speech, the U.S.’ leadership in the world was mentioned in a different context.
The family plan
The great power struggle was woven into almost every topic in his address. For instance, according to Biden, the “American Families Plan” is not just an important investment for American families, it will also give the U.S. a competitive edge internationally.
The U.S. president introduced this plan by referring to his conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“I spent a lot of time with President Xi. … When he called to congratulate me, we had a two-hour discussion. He’s deadly earnest about becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. … To win that competition for the future, in my view, we also need to make a once-in-a-generation investment in our families and our children. That’s why I’ve introduced the American Families Plan tonight.”
This was not the only instance of Biden bringing China into the conversation. When he introduced the “American Jobs Plan,” he again underlined that his plan would shift the manufacturing industry from China to the U.S.
“Look, but think about it: There is simply no reason why the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing. No reason. None. No reason.”
According to Biden, strengthening U.S. infrastructure is particularly important because “China and other countries are closing in fast.”
Dance with the dragon
Biden seemed to legitimize his objectives through great power politics. He conveyed his willingness to invest in the infrastructure of the country by referencing the competitive international environment, specifically the China challenge.
“America is moving – moving forward – but we can’t stop now. We’re in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century. We’re at a great inflection point in history.”
Biden once again brought up the topic of China when discussing certain international issues, including trade and technology.
Again, Biden referred to his conversations with Xi and warned that the U.S. must ready itself for a technology competition with China, noting that the unfair trade practices of the Chinese state must be prevented.
“In my discussions with Xi, I told him that ‘we welcome the competition, we’re not looking for conflict.’ But I made absolutely clear that we will defend America’s interests across the board. America will stand up to unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and American industries, like subsidies from state to state-owned operations and enterprises and the theft of American technology and intellectual property.”
U.S. Congress members’ reaction to the speech showed that China will remain both a domestic and international issue throughout Biden’s term as president. It will be part of every conversation both domestic and international.
This article was first published by Daily Sabah on May 4, 2021.