State of the Union speeches are times for presidents to tout their accomplishments and share their agenda for the future.
But if you thought President Joe Biden would use his speech to issue a strong response to China sending a suspected spy balloon into the U.S. and further awaken the country to the growing challenge on the horizon, think again.
Tuesday’s speech lasted 72 minutes. And the China section spanned less than two minutes — and it came toward the end.
He named China just five times. Not mentioned were the words “balloon” or “surveillance.”
“Before I came to office, the story was about how the People’s Republic of China was increasing its power and America was failing in the world,” Biden said as he began the China section of his speech. “Not anymore.”
“We made clear, and I’ve made clear in my personal conversations, which have been many, with President Xi that we seek competition, not conflict. But I will make no apologies that we’re investing to make America stronger. Investing in American innovation, in industries that will define the future, that China intends to be dominating.”
Watch the video below:
It took 58 minutes and three seconds for Joe Biden to talk about China, the country the poses the single biggest threat to the U.S. and just spent a week spying without consequences on our most sensitive military installations.
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) February 8, 2023
Biden argued the U.S. is “in the strongest position in decades to compete with China or anyone else in the world.” And he committed to working with China “where we can advance American interests and benefit the world.”
“But make no mistake about it: As we made clear last week, if China threatens our sovereignty, we will act to protect our country. And we did,” the president stated.
He then transitioned to a line about autocracies and democracies, and because his name is Biden, he started yelling.
“Autocracy has grown weaker, not stronger,” he said as he raised his voice into a yell. “Name me a world leader who would change places with Xi Jinping. Name me one. Name me one.”
Overall, the section on China was rather disappointing. Yes, we do not want to unnecessarily provoke Chinese officials by coming off as too hawkish. And the parts about the two countries working together when it advances America’s interests and not seeking conflict were good.
But after China’s ridiculous bluster when their precious balloon was shot down, it would have been nice to see him be stronger on the part about protecting our sovereignty and note that such incidents must not occur again. It would have been a strong section: extend an olive branch of economic and technological competition and partnership to further the two countries’ interests and the world, but with a stern warning.
Instead, there was one short section aimed at deterrence, and then the speech moved on.
What is China going to say? “We have the right to fly our balloons over your country whether you like it or not.” There is little doubt they would have shot down a balloon if we sent one over, and they probably would have demanded an apology for it too.
It is not as though he did not have time to go a little more in-depth on China. The speech was 72 minutes. And he wasted some of it on the claim Republicans want to sunset Social Security, and Medicare — which even The Washington Post has pointed out is not accurate.
Biden was practically gifted a golden, prime-time opportunity to bolster his image and whiffed.
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