Biden Accuses China Trying to Meddle With Competition Bill

  • Chinese Embassy has sought meetings with officials, lawmakers
  • Legislation would bolster U.S. semiconductor manufacturing

U.S. President Joe Biden accused China of trying to interfere in congressional negotiations over a broad competition bill that would bolster domestic semiconductor manufacturing.

“Fundamentally, this is a national security issue. This is one of the reasons why the Chinese Communist Party is lobbying folks to oppose this bill,” Biden said Tuesday in Troy, Alabama. “And it’s an issue that unites Democrats and Republicans. So, let’s get it done.”

He spoke during a tour of a Lockheed Martin Corp. plant and made the case for passage of the long-stalled legislation. The president cited the more than 200 semiconductors needed to manufacture a Javelin antitank missile, which has been deployed by Ukrainian forces against Russian invaders.

Biden’s comments — made during remarks that centered chiefly on the war in Ukraine — were among his most critical yet toward China’s Communist Party. He often cites past conversations with Chinese President Xi Jinping in which he challenged Xi’s view that democracies cannot deliver for their people.

The Senate and House could soon begin the formal conference process so the two chambers can reconcile their different versions of the measure, which is intended to strengthen competition with China. While members of both parties support the $52 billion in the legislation for domestic semiconductor manufacturing, they disagree on other provisions and final passage is still months off.

The Chinese Embassy in Washington has been seeking meetings with administration officials, congressional offices, think tanks and companies to gather information about the status of the bill and what provisions were likely to make it to the president’s desk, people familiar with the meeting requests said. Administration officials have all declined the requests, as have many of the congressional offices, according to the people.

An embassy spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment. The White House declined to provide more details of the president’s claim.

Although the Chinese Foreign Ministry has previously said how the U.S. develops “is its own business,” it has rejected what its views as efforts to suppress China’s growth. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a regular news briefing in March that draft provisions of the legislation “exaggerate the ‘China threat theory’” and urged its supporters to to drop their “Cold War, zero-sum mentality.”

After 15 months in office, the White House has yet to articulate a comprehensive China strategy, including what it would do with respect to economic disputes. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to outline the administration’s policy toward the country in a speech Thursday morning, but people familiar with the plans said he wasn’t expected to lay out any new initiatives or details on the economic front.

Republicans believe the lack of a China strategy that distinguishes Biden from former President Donald Trump represents a vulnerability for Democrats in the November midterm elections.

U.S. officials for months have been deliberating about potential tariff reduction, new trade probes and the enforcement of Trump’s “phase one” trade deal. Biden’s team continues to be at odds over what to do with hundreds of billions of dollars in existing tariffs on Chinese goods, and has diverging views of whether and how hard to scrutinize U.S. investments into China.

Author: Jenny Leonard, Bloomberg

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