Apr 30 , 2021. 18 hours ago – 15:53 KYODO NEWS
WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden on Wednesday underscored the increasing rivalry with China in his first speech to Congress since taking office in January, saying that his country needs to “win the 21st century” competition such as through massive domestic investment.
While showing his determination to defend U.S. interests “across the board,” Biden emphasized that a conflict with China is not the intention of the United States and that it will maintain “a strong military presence” in the Indo-Pacific to prevent a conflict.
The 78-year-old president’s prime-time speech was conducted on the eve of the 100th day of his presidency, with attendees pared down and masked up amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Now, after just 100 days, I can report to the nation: America is on the move again,” Biden told a joint session of Congress, touting the country’s progress in recovering from the devastating impacts of the pandemic amid ramped-up vaccination efforts.
The hour-long speech was largely spent to pitch to Congress members his “once-in-a-generation” investment package proposals aimed at creating jobs and enhancing education to make the country more competitive.
“We’re in a competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century,” Biden said. “We’re at a great inflection point in history…We have to compete more strenuously than we have.”
He highlighted the importance of investment in research and development so as not to fall behind the race in the area of technology, such as artificial intelligence.
“China and other countries are closing in fast. We have to develop, and dominate the products and technologies of the future. Advanced batteries, biotechnology, computer chips, clean energy,” the president said.
Biden, meanwhile, reiterated his commitment to reasserting U.S. leadership on the global stage by working with allies and reversing the country’s retreat from multilateralism under his predecessor Donald Trump.
Calling North Korea’s nuclear program a serious threat to the security of the United States and the world, Biden also said he will address the issue through “diplomacy as well as stern deterrence.”
Earlier Wednesday, the White House announced Biden’s latest sweeping investment proposal for education and child care, which brings the total to around $4 trillion in potential spending when added to a $2.3 trillion investment plan unveiled last month aimed at creating millions of jobs and rebuilding infrastructure.
The “American Families Plan” consists of about $1 trillion in spending on education, such as providing free community college education and free universal preschool, as well as $800 billion in tax cuts for middle- and low-income families over 10 years.
The president seeks to fund the plan by increasing the top income tax rate on the wealthiest Americans to 39.6 percent from 37 percent, reversing part of Trump’s 2017 tax cuts.
He is also proposing nearly doubling the tax rate on capital gains, such as profits earned from selling stocks, to 39.6 percent for households making over $1 million.
In combination with the eight-year infrastructure plan, which calls for raising the corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 21 percent, all of the investments would be fully paid for over the next 15 years, according to the White House.
Biden had promised during his election campaign to rebuild the pandemic-hit economy without raising taxes on middle-class working families.
Biden took office on Jan. 20 in the midst of the pandemic and when the country was reeling from a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol, in which a pro-Trump mob sought to block the transfer of power.
The Capitol riot on Jan. 6 exposed the vulnerability of the democracy of the country that has long championed such values.
Biden, who frames the U.S. competition with China as a battle between democratic and authoritarian governments, said in the speech that he wants to show to autocrats of the world that democracy would prevail.
“They look at the images of the mob that assaulted the Capitol as proof that the sun is setting on American democracy…We have to prove them wrong. We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works, and we can deliver for our people,” he said.
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