Former vice president Joe Biden on Wednesday dismissed the notion that the United States should be worried about China as a geopolitical competitor, prompting criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as well as some Republicans who argued that Biden is underestimating the world’s second-largest economy.
The argument is one Biden has frequently made in speeches throughout the years, but it is drawing increased attention due to his status as the apparent front-runner among Democrats running for president.
At a campaign stop in Iowa City, Biden pointed to his years serving as vice president and as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, telling the crowd that there’s not a “single solitary” world leader who would trade the problems the United States faces for those confronting China.
“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” said Biden, who last week announced his bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
He argued that Beijing has its hands full dealing with its own domestic and regional problems, such as tensions in the South China Sea — which Biden called the “China Sea” — and the “mountains … in the west.” It was not clear to what mountains or issue Biden was referring.
“They can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system,” Biden said of China. “I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.”
Sanders, one of Biden’s competitors for the 2020 Democratic nomination, criticized Biden’s assessment of China as misguided.
“Since the China trade deal I voted against, America has lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs,” Sanders said in a tweet Wednesday night. “It’s wrong to pretend that China isn’t one of our major economic competitors. When we are in the White House we will win that competition by fixing our trade policies.”