Battle lines drawn between US democracy and China’s autocracy

President Biden outlines the ideological challenges Washington faces in the economic conflict with Beijing

A day is a long time in politics. One hundred is an eternity.

In President Joe Biden’s keynote speech to a joint session of the United States Congress, he announced a US$4 trillion economic strategy to combat “autocratic” China.

He also warned President Xi Jinping’s ruling Communist Party government that the US will vehemently oppose “unfair trade practices” and Beijing’s disregard for the rule of law.

“America will stand up to unfair trade practices that undercut American workers and industries, like subsidies for state-owned enterprises and the theft of American technologies and intellectual property,” he said in a clear reference to China during his 100-day-in-office address.

His comments came after Xi’s regime was accused of stealing US trade secrets worth up to “$600 billion a year,” launching a “disinformation” campaign about Western Covid-19 vaccines and turning the South China Sea into a New Cold War hotspot.

Crime and grime:

Stand by US: “America won’t back away from commitments to human rights and fundamental freedoms … [Xi is] deadly earnest about [China] becoming the most significant, consequential nation in the world. He and others, autocrats, think that democracy can’t compete in the 21st Century, with autocracies,” President Biden said.

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Tech theft: Biden deliberately named the Chinese government when it came to technology theft. His remarks followed comments made by William Evanina, the director of the National Counterintelligence and Security Center. In February, Evanina told a conference that Beijing-backed theft of American trade secrets was costing the US between “$300 billion to $600 billion” a year. 

Big-ticket items: Stealing details of American aircraft projects and electric vehicle technology topped China’s shopping list.

Spying on the spies: FBI Director Christopher Wray pointed out earlier this year that up to 1,000 investigations into Chinese technology theft are in progress across 56 regional offices.

Multiple targets: The US is not the only country being targeted. On Wednesday, Hu Mu-yuan, the deputy head of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau, insisted that the high-tech island democracy, Japan and South Korea were victims of technology theft. “Moreover, the Chinese Communist [Party] is stealing other countries’ intellectual property to boost their own power,” he told the media.

Warning shot: “Preventing Taiwan’s key technology and high-tech personnel from being infiltrated by the ‘red supply chain’ has become an important task to protect our industry’s competitiveness and ensure our economic security,” Hu added.

Alternative view: Global Times, which is owned by the official newspaper of the Communist Party, the People’s Daily, ran an editorial condemning Washington’s approach to China. It was written before Biden had even stepped up to the podium.

Elitist plot: “[American] elites used to believe they [could] quickly destroy China by taking an extreme and quick approach. But now they [are] attempting to gradually suffocate China’s development and disrupt the rise of the country,” Global Times stated.

Political war: “The Biden administration has taken the political war against China to new heights. It has mobilized allies to jointly exert pressure on China, and has made some progress,” the state-run nationalistic tabloid said. 

Smear campaign: “Washington has set a bad example in the West by viciously smearing governance in Northwest China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region as ‘genocide.’ It is now creating a strategic posture to contain China that is no lighter than it was under the previous [Donald Trump] administration,” Global Times added.

China Factor comment: One point that Biden and Xi would agree on is that China is aiming to supplant the US as the world’s leading power. Autocracy trumps democracy. But it is important to remember that this is a stand-off with the Communist Party of China and not the Chinese people. Stripped of the right to vote, they will never be allowed to voice their opinions of the CCP or Xi’s policies at the ballot box.