President Joe Biden is citing the growing threat from China as justification for his expansive multitrillion-dollar domestic agenda.
Biden said in a Wednesday congressional address that China is "closing in fast" on the United States. He proposed universal pre-K, free college, and green infrastructure as remedies to the threat posed by the communist regime, adding that "there’s no reason the blades for wind turbines can’t be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing." One solution that went unmentioned was increasing the defense budget, which is slated to shrink under the Democratic administration.
The Biden speech drew criticism from Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), who said the president did not adequately explain China's threat to Americans.
"President Biden’s remarks on China did not meet the moment," Cotton said. "He missed an important opportunity to rally our nation against the greatest foreign threat to the United States."
The president's speech elicited renewed Republican concerns about his budget priorities. Just as the president was reading his speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R., Ky.) press office noted Biden’s budget proposal expands spending in "every corner of government with one big exception: national defense." The Biden defense budget first introduced in March comes in at $715 billion, which marks a slight decrease from the Trump administration’s last defense plan when accounting for inflation. The budget proposal fell far short of the proposed 3 to 5 percent increase in defense dollars demanded by congressional defense hawks.
And while the president pledged to never "back away ... from our commitment to human rights" abroad, he stopped short of directly raising Chinese human rights issues. Biden made no mention of China's genocide in Xinjiang, brutal crackdown in Hong Kong, or interference in Taiwanese democracy.
Biden mentioned more conventional methods for competing with China at the end of his speech. The president pledged to enforce fair trade and maintain a NATO-level military commitment to the Asia-Pacific—policies that came from the Trump administration's playbook.
Responding to Biden’s address, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo said winning the China competition will require toughness, not "kowtowing to China."
"President Biden says that he wants to 'position us to win the competition of the 21st century,'" Pompeo said. "Kowtowing to China will ensure we lose that competition. We must be tough, not weak."