Biden worries the world thinks America can't lead after Trump, and that it's 'beginning to look to China'

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Biden worries the world thinks America can't lead after Trump, and that it's 'beginning to look to China'
President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in the House Chamber at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, as Vice President Kamala Harris, left, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., look on.Melina Mara/The Washington Post via AP, Pool
  • Biden told the NYT he's worried that the world is increasingly looking to China as a global leader.
  • The president pointed to Trump's COVID-19 response as deeply damaging to US credibility.
  • Biden views competing with China as a top priority in order to restore confidence in democracy.

President Joe Biden in a new interview with The New York Times reiterated his concerns about the damage the Trump era did to America's global image and the ways in which this has benefited China.

"We're kind of at a place where the rest of the world is beginning to look to China," Biden said. "The most devastating comment made after I was elected - it wasn't so much about me - but it was by the Irish taoiseach (prime minister) saying that 'Well, America can't lead. They can't even get their arms around Covid.'"

By the time former President Donald Trump left office, more Americans had died from COVID-19 than the number of US troops killed during World War II. Trump repeatedly downplayed the threat of COVID-19 while rejecting public health recommendations about masks and social distancing. Foreign policy experts and ex-US officials last April told Insider that Trump's COVID-19 response downgraded the US in the eyes of the world and created a void in global leadership that China was rushing to fill.

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Biden has made competing with China and restoring the US as a respected international leader a key aspect of his foreign policy.

"They have 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. That's not going to happen on my watch," Biden said of China in March.

During his first speech to Congress in April, Biden said, "We're in competition with China and other countries to win the 21st century. We're at a great inflection point in history."

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The president has repeatedly expressed concerns that China is outpacing the US in technology and science, and has framed issues like improving America's infrastructure as vital to staying competitive in the global arena - especially from an economic standpoint.

"We've gotten to a point where I think our economic competence has a gigantic impact on our international influence and capacity," Biden told The Times.

Biden has also portrayed the competition with China as an existential threat, and a battle between democracy and autocracy. In late April, Biden said Chinese leader Xi Jinping is betting that democracy can't keep up with China's autocratic model.

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The Biden administration has also challenged China on human rights issues such as the treatment of the Uyghurs in Xinjiang, which Secretary of State Antony Blinken decried as "genocide."

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