On Wednesday night, President Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress, his first address to Congress as president. Mr. Biden took aim at China in his speech, pledging that the United States would maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific region and promising to promote technology development and trade.
The speech, timed to coincide with Biden’s 100th day in office, was considered symbolic by many. In his speech, Mr. Biden called for bipartisanship and laid out his comprehensive infrastructure plan as a means to keep the United States “globally competitive, especially with China.”
“China and others are closing in fast,” Biden said in his speech. We must develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future. The United States will stand firm against unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and American industries, such as subsidies to state-owned enterprises, and the theft of American technology and intellectual property.”
Biden has repeatedly cited competition with China as the biggest foreign policy challenge facing the United States. Biden and his fellow Democrats, as well as opposition Republicans, have taken a tougher line in dealing with Beijing.
Biden also said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the United States would maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific, “as we have done for NATO in Europe, not to provoke conflict, but to prevent it.”
Mr. Biden said the United States, China and other nations were competing to win the 21st century and that “every nation, including China, must play by the same rules in the global economy.”
Mr. Biden’s speech focused largely on domestic policy but offered few specifics, focusing more on China than any other foreign policy issue.
“It has been 100 days since I took the oath of office and inherited a country in the midst of crisis, the worst epidemic in a century, the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression,” Biden said. And now, just 100 days later, I can report to the nation that America is at work once again.” Biden also called the $1.9 trillion U.S. rescue plan “one of the most significant in U.S. history.”
Mr. Biden has been urging lawmakers to pass comprehensive bipartisan legislation currently making its way through the Senate that would pressure Beijing on human rights, address trade imbalances and fund the development of new technologies to compete more effectively with China. “The United States will not walk away from our commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms and to our Allies,” Biden said.
Biden also talked about competition with another geopolitical rival, Russia. Biden said he had made clear to Russian President Vladimir Putin that there would be consequences for Moscow’s interference in U.S. elections and cyberattacks on governments and businesses, but that Washington wasn’t seeking escalation.