World

Biden goes tough on China in first speech to Congress

He vows to maintain a strong US military presence in Indo-Pacific and boost technological development

WASHINGTON: US President Joe Biden took aim at China in his first joint address to Congress on Wednesday, pledging to maintain a strong US military presence in the Indo-Pacific region and promising to boost technological development and trade.

"China and other countries are closing in fast. We have to develop and dominate the products and technologies of the future," Mr Biden said.

And in a line that drew some of the strongest applause of the evening, he said: "There is simply no reason the blades for wind turbines can't be built in Pittsburgh instead of Beijing."

Mr Biden has repeatedly identified competition with China as the greatest foreign policy challenge the country faces.

He and his fellow Democrats as well as opposition Republicans have all moved towards a harder line on dealings with Beijing.

"America will stand up to unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and American industries, like subsidies to state-owned enterprises and the theft of American technology and intellectual property," Mr Biden said.

He added that he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the US will maintain a strong military presence in the Indo-Pacific region "just as we do for Nato in Europe - not to start conflict - but to prevent one".

Here are some key takeaways:

RESHAPING ECONOMY

Mr Biden laid out plans to tax wealthy Americans and corporations, in order to fund massive investments in infrastructure, education, and low-income and middle-class families.

"My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked. It is time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out," Mr Biden said.

"When you hear someone say that they do not want to raise taxes on the wealthiest 1 per cent and on corporate America - ask them: Whose taxes are you going to raise instead, and whose are you going to cut?"

POLICE BILL DEADLINE

Mr Biden urged Congress to pass legislation to overhaul policing practices by the first anniversary of Mr George Floyd's death next month.

This was the first time the President put a deadline on the issue.

"We have all seen the knee of injustice on the neck of Black America. Now is our opportunity to make real progress."

HISTORY IN THE MAKING

When Mr Biden delivered his speech, history was made behind him, with two powerful women taking their places on the rostrum for the first time.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has been in the position before during presidential speeches.

But with the addition this time of Ms Kamala Harris, the nation's first female vice-president, the two people seated behind and on either side of Mr Biden were women.

"Madame Speaker. Madame Vice-President," Mr Biden said proudly. "No president has ever said those words from this podium, and it's about time.". - REUTERS, AFP

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