Biden said America's survival depends on proving to China that democracy can outpace autocracy

·3-min read
Biden and Xi Jinping
Then Vice President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a 2012 meeting in California. China now has the lead in 5G infrastructure, but experts say don't count Silicon Valley out yet. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
  • Biden said Xi Jinping is betting democracy can't outpace China's autocratic model.

  • He framed overcoming the challenges ahead as key to the survival of democracy and proving Xi wrong.

  • Biden said it was crucial to him to be successful in his first 100 days as part of this effort.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

President Joe Biden on Wednesday said Xi Jinping is betting democracy can't "keep up with" autocracy, and warned that proving the Chinese leader wrong is key to the survival of the US.

"They're going to write about this point in history," Biden said to reporters ahead of his first address to a joint session of Congress, in remarks first reported by CNN. "Not about any of us in here, but about whether or not democracy can function in the 21st century."

"You know, things are moving so damn rapidly," Biden went on to say. "Things are changing so rapidly in the world, in science and technology and a whole range of other issues, that - the question is: In a democracy that's such a genius as ours, can you get consensus in the timeframe that can compete with autocracy?"

Biden said that these questions surrounding democracy and autocracy have been at the heart of his debates and conversations with Xi.

The president, who is approaching 100 days in office, said that it was vital to him to hit the ground running after being sworn in as part of a broader effort to prove that democracy still works.

"Because if we go four more years like we had in the last four, I really, honest to God, believe we're in real jeopardy as a nation," Biden said, portraying the challenges the US faces as an existential threat.

This is why Biden said he pushed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package through Congress, despite having no GOP support.

"Ease the pain, save lives, put people in a position where they have reason to believe that they could actually get back and earn a living and provide for their families. That's how I looked at the first 100 days," Biden said, underscoring that he couldn't "afford to lose out of the box."

The president has made competing with and challenging China a top priority. And since his inauguration, which came just two weeks after a violent insurrection at the US Capitol, Biden has repeatedly emphasized the importance of showing that democracy is superior to China's autocratic model. He's consistently injected commentary on China into discussions on virtually every major issue, ranging from defense to infrastructure.

Biden came into office at a time when tensions between the US and China were already at historic heights, with experts warning a new Cold War was on the horizon. This was largely fueled by former President Donald Trump's trade war with Beijing and the COVID-19 pandemic, which Trump blamed on the Chinese government.

The Biden administration has ramped up pressure on China over human rights abuses in Xinjiang and attacks on democracy in Hong Kong, slapping new sanctions on Chinese officials last month for "genocide" against the Uyghurs. Meanwhile, Biden has pushed for more investments in research and development to keep the US competitive with China in technology and science.

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