04/29/2021, 16.52
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Biden: Washington and Beijing engaged in the struggle of the century

by Emanuele Scimia

Speaking to Congress, the US President launches his challenge to Xi Jinping, focusing on technological competition and the struggle between democracy and autocracy. The European Union is increasingly aligned with the US. The Philippines is back on a more pro-US line. For Chinese academic, Biden is mistaken; China does not want to undermine the United States as a world superpower.

Rome (AsiaNews) – In his first address before Congress yesterday, US President Joe Biden said that America is "in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century.”

The main battles for the US President are over technological supremacy, an area in which China is making great strides, as well as who has the best system of government.

Biden wants the US to reinvest 2 per cent of its GDP (now it is 1 per cent) in research and development so as to dominate the technologies of the future: advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, clean energy. Such a commitment requires major investments in the country’s education system.

According to Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping is “deadly earnest” in making China the most significant country in the world. For the US leader, Xi, like other autocrats, thinks democracy cannot compete with autocracies this century, since it needs a long time to get a consensus.

Still, the president said he welcomed China's competition, adding however that his administration will fight to ensure that everyone in the global economy plays by the same rules. Washington and its allies, especially in Europe, have long accused Beijing of engaging in unfair trade practices and violating intellectual property rules.

Biden also made it clear that his administration will not give up defending human rights and fundamental freedoms in other parts of the world, a message in line with what was expressed yesterday in the European Parliament, where a group of MEPs threatened to reject the investment agreement signed by China and the European Union on December 30.

Only the European People's Party seems ready to support the agreement with Beijing; the other political groups in the European parliament are calling for the lifting of Chinese sanctions on European politicians and academics, which Beijing imposed after the European Union sanctioned members of the Chinese Communist Party for human rights violations in Xinjiang.

In his address, Biden pointed out that the United States will maintain a strong presence in the Indo-Pacific region.  “Not to start a conflict, but to prevent one,” he noted. Indeed, the US leader wants to revitalise regional alliances, weakened under the Trump administration.

In a recent development, Washington welcomed the Philippines' decision to continue patrolling the South China Sea, which China claims almost as a whole. Specifically, Beijing refuses to withdraw its fishing vessels and other ships from the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone. This has forced Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to take a tough stance against Beijing, even though he considers China an indispensable trading partner.

“I think Biden exaggerate the so-called China threat, mainly for domestic political reasons as well as for misunderstanding China's growth and policies,” said Wang Yong, the director of the Center for International Political Economy at Peking University, speaking to AsiaNews.

The Chinese scholar explains that the US is still an important country and an inseparable partner for China. in his view, “China is not interested in displacing the role of the US in the world.” In fact, Chinese leaders simply want to develop the country, improve the material life of its people, and boost China’s international standing for domestic reasons.

Wang hopes the US and China will “work to improve the understanding of each other's intention and capability,” especially since their different values and government systems have led to “misperception” between the two sides.

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