Eating our lunch: Biden points to China in development push

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President Joe Biden walks over to speak with reporters on the Ellipse on the National Mall after spending the weekend at Camp David, Monday, April 5, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON – Pushing for trillions of dollars in development spending, President Joe Biden and Democratic lawmakers are directing Americans’ eyes to the rear-view mirror, pointing to a booming, ambitious China they say is threatening to quickly overtake the United States in global clout and capacity.

It's a national security pitch for a domestic spending program: that the $2 trillion proposal for investments in U.S. transport and energy, manufacturing, internet and other sectors will make the United States more competitive in the face of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s massive infrastructure-building campaign.

The argument is that competition today with China is more about economic and technological gains than arms — and its outcome will impact the United States' financial growth and influence, its ability to defend U.S. security alliances and interests abroad, and the daily lives of Americans.

China under Xi has "an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world,” Biden said before launching his proposal last week. “That’s not going to happen on my watch because the United States are going to continue to grow and expand.”

That pitch hasn't won over Republicans. They say his proposal has been loaded down with unnecessary spending projects and that raising taxes will ultimately hurt the U.S. economy.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans could support a “much more modest” approach, one that doesn’t rely on corporate tax hikes to pay for it. Biden’s plan is “something we’re not going to do,” McConnell said Monday.

To varying degrees, addressing infrastructure has bipartisan support. Americans are experiencing outages, delays and irritations on transport and power systems designed in the 1960s and earlier. Meanwhile, China's latest five-year plan calls for hundreds more airports, coal-fired power plants and other standard infrastructure projects. Xi also is calling for his country’s focus on “new infrastructure,” including investment in 5G networks and other digital infrastructure.

“Time and momentum are on our side,” Xi told a meeting of the Communist Party last year.