When President Joe Biden addressed a Joint Session of Congress and millions of Americans on Wednesday night, it was clear that much of the speech was directed far beyond our borders to an audience of one in Beijing, China. Because while Biden’s speech laid out as bold an economic agenda as put forth by any American president since Franklin Roosevelt, it also let Xi Jinping, China’s president, know that the United States had no intention of handing over the reins of global leadership any time soon.
As often as the speech was directed to American lawmakers in a House chamber only partially filled due to anti-pandemic social distancing requirements, it also time and time again, directly or implicitly, offered a message to the ambitious autocrat at China’s helm that reports of the end of the American century were premature. Biden was not subtle about it. Indeed, the entire structure of the speech from the articulation of overarching goals to the rationale given for each major proposal within it was strikingly China-centric.
Biden began and ended with a statement that his goal was “winning the future for America.” Clearly, this implied a competition and, he made clear, the leading competitor is the rising superpower Xi leads.