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Biden speaks in Pittsburgh. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty

In laying out his $2 trillion infrastructure plan on Wednesday, President Biden used the word "roads" twice 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 Democrats believe the issue Republicans are most likely to be willing to work with them 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.

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Mar 31, 2021 - Economy & Business

How China uses secret loans for geopolitical power

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

China, like all other rich countries, lends billions of dollars to needy governments. A major new study from Georgetown University's Anna Gelpern and others shows that China's debt contracts are particularly unfriendly to debtor nations — and to the international community as a whole.

Why it matters: China is using debt contracts to place it at a geopolitical advantage not only to its debtors, but also to all other rich nations.

Biden calls for massive climate and transit package

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden is asking Congress to approve hundreds of billions of dollars to remake transit, overhaul power grids and expand clean energy in a sweeping plan the White House says will fight climate change while outcompeting China.

Why it matters: The plan, if enacted, would be the most far-reaching federal investment to date in programs that would help curb greenhouse gas emissions. But it faces serious challenges in the closely divided Congress.

Mar 31, 2021 - World

BBC China reporter relocates from Beijing after threats, surveillance

A promotion event for Xinjiang held in northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, March 26. Photo: Xinhua/Ding Lei via Getty Images

The BBC's Beijing correspondent John Sudworth has left the city and relocated to Taiwan after nine years, citing threats, surveillance and intimidation of his team in the wake of their reporting on Uyghur forced labor in Xinjiang.

The big picture: The number of foreign correspondents reporting from China has dwindled over the past several years as tensions have ratcheted up between Beijing and the West.