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Biden builds infrastructure pitch around China challenge

Dave Lawler

WASHINGTON DC: In laying out his $2 trillion infrastructure plan on We-dnesday, President Biden used the word “roads” tw-ice and “China” six times.

Why it matters: We’ve now entered an era in which even purely domestic initiatives are framed in terms of competition with China.

What he’s saying: “It will grow the economy, make us more competitive around the world, promote our national security interests, and put us in a position to win the global competition with China in the upcoming years,” Biden said, laying out his plan in Pittsburgh.

Later, he added: “That’s what competition between America and China and the rest of the world is all about. It’s a basic question: Can democracies still deliver for their people?”

Between the lines: Invoking the China challenge makes sense politically. As my colleagues have reported, top Democ-rats believe the issue Rep-ublicans are most likely to be willing to work with th-em on is countering China.

But aspects of the plan itself are also tailored for competition with China, including $50 billion for semiconductor manufacturing and $180 billion for research and development into critical technologies and green energy.

Experts have been warning for years that Beijing’s investments in those areas could make China the world’s leading technological superpower.

Worth noting: Biden’s China-centric argument on infrastructure is reminiscent of a case set forth in 2019 by Jake Sullivan, now Biden’s national security adviser.

“There is something unifying about a competitor the size and throw-weight of China,” Sullivan said, contending that China’s rise could become the “mobilizing force” the U.S. needed to innovate and reform at home.