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Joe Biden at a CNN town hall in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Photo courtesy of CNN.

Joe Biden described Russia as an "opponent" of the U.S. at a CNN town hall on Thursday, while identifying China as a "serious competitor."

Flashback: The former vice president opened himself to attacks early in his campaign last year when he said China was "not competition" for the U.S. — a comment that drew criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, per Axios' Jonathan Swan.

What he's saying: "I believe Russia is an opponent. I really do," Biden said Thursday. "And look, Putin's overwhelming objective is to break up NATO, to fundamentally alter the circumstance in Europe so he doesn't have to face an entire NATO contingent."

  • Biden noted that the U.S. trade deficit with China has surged, adding: "I view China as a competitor. A serious competitor. That's why I think we have to strengthen our relationships and our alliances in Asia."

Go deeper

Updated Jul 3, 2020 - World

The 53 countries supporting China's crackdown on Hong Kong

Note: The U.S. has been highly critical of China over the law, but withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council in 2018; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Dueling statements at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva shed light on geopolitical currents far beyond the walls of that institution.

Driving the news: China's Foreign Ministry and state media declared victory after 53 countries backed Beijing's new national security law for Hong Kong. Just 27 criticized the law, which imposes harsh penalties for vaguely defined political crimes and is widely viewed as the death knell for Hong Kong's autonomy.

Jun 30, 2020 - World

China's influence operations are getting harder to hide

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Beijing's political influence operations — quiet attempts to sway public opinion and policy in foreign countries — are receiving intense scrutiny in the United States.

Why it matters: Scrutiny can bring transparency, which analysts say is key to combatting authoritarian influence.

Dec 17, 2018 - World

Russia is winning its war of disinformation

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

U.S. intelligence says Russia sought to disrupt the 2016 and 2018 elections and sow discord. Regardless of what Robert Mueller does, Russia did it — and is still at it.

The big picture: Multiple high-stakes, aggressive federal investigations were spawned by an initial FBI probe of Russian government efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. And fallout from Russian meddling, including Democratic talk of impeaching President Trump, is likely to remain a dominant political issue as Democrats take over the House 17 days from now.