Biden Sells Blue-Collar Workers the American Dream of a Failing China

  • Joe Biden painted a disastrous picture of the Chinese economy to American metalworkers on Wednesday.
  • Calling China “xenophobic,” Biden made some of his harshest comments on Beijing.
  • Denigrating China fits well with Biden’s new electoral cadence, which is to make the American economy a dominant and lasting force.

President Joe Biden presented his version of U.S.-China relations to Pennsylvania steelworkers on Wednesday — that Beijing is not only failing to catch up, but struggling on its own.

As he spoke at the headquarters of the American Steelworkers Union in Pittsburgh, the president’s hyperbolic rhetoric sounded almost Trump-like.

“They have a population that has more retirees than workers,” Biden said of China. “They don’t matter. They’re xenophobic. Nobody else comes in. They have real problems.”

These were some of the harshest comments Biden has ever made about China, although it’s unclear exactly how the president calculated his retirement numbers. China has around 780 million workers, more than half of its population of 1.4 billion, with urban unemployment estimated to be around 5%. But the country is indeed aging rapidly and will experience an unbalanced population, with around 300 million people expected to retire in the next ten years and fewer births than deaths.

Biden, running for his second term in the White House, has reason to step up anti-China rhetoric even as Washington and Beijing try to ease tensions this year. He and his opponent, former President Donald Trump, have long campaigned to be tougher on Beijing, and Trump has pledged to impose significant tariffs on foreign goods.

Instead of presenting himself as Mr. Fix-It, or a lone warrior fighting the good fight against a strong Beijing, Biden told blue-collar workers on Wednesday that competition, as it stands, already overwhelmingly favors America .

His message to Pittsburgh was clear: China is in trouble. He told steelworkers that he often asks world leaders if they would trade places with China and its problems.

“Trump just doesn’t get it,” he said. “For years, I have heard many of my Republican and even Democratic friends say that China is booming and America is lagging behind.”

“I always thought we had it all wrong,” Biden added. “America is booming, we have the best economy in the world.”

Boasting about the robustness of the U.S. economy has been a key pillar of Biden’s re-election campaign, as his Republican opponents have claimed throughout his term that the U.S. economy was struggling under his watch.

There is another rhetorical implication to Biden’s mocking China’s problems. By exalting the U.S. position and downplaying China’s, Biden avoided the common narrative that a rising China would come into conflict or even go to war with the United States as China catches up.

“I want fair competition with China, not conflict, and we are in a stronger position to win the 21st century economic competition against China or anyone else,” Biden said.

At the same time, he announced the tripling of customs duties of 7.5% on Chinese steel and aluminum. China, fueled by public funds, produces large quantities of steel and sells it cheaply in the US market, which Biden called “cheating.”

The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside of normal business hours by Business Insider.

The president also pledged to block the $14.9 billion sale of US Steel to Japan’s Nippon Steel, once again highlighting the benefits of investing in an already strong US economy.

“An American company, operated by American union steelworkers, the best in the world,” Biden said.

The metal industry provides more than 120,000 jobs in Pennsylvania and some $33 billion in economic output, according to an April 2023 report released by the Pennsylvania Steel Alliance.

Pennsylvania, a vital swing state for the 2024 election, voted for Biden by a margin of 1.2% in 2020.


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