Biden says China wants to become the most wealthy, powerful country but it's 'not gonna happen on my watch'

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Biden and Xi Jinping
Then Vice President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping at a 2012 meeting in California. China now has the lead in 5G infrastructure, but experts say don't count Silicon Valley out yet. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images
  • Biden said that he won't let China become the world's most powerful, wealthy country.

  • He said the competition between the US and China is a fight between democracy and autocracy.

  • "We have to prove that democracy works."

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

President Joe Biden during his first news conference on Thursday said he would stand in the way of China's goal of becoming the world's most powerful country.

"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 gonna happen on my watch," Biden said.

He vowed to challenge China on trade and human rights, while underscoring that the US needs to invest more in science, technology, and research to stay competitive.

Biden framed the escalating competition between Washington and Beijing as part of a broader, global ideological fight between democracy and autocracy.

"This is a battle between the utility of democracies in the 21st century and autocracies," Biden said. "We have to prove that democracy works."

Biden said Chinese leader Xi Jinping, much like Russian President Vladimir Putin, doesn't have a democratic "bone in his body." Xi and Putin see autocracy as the "wave of the future," Biden said, and that "democracy can't function" in an increasingly complex world.

The president on Thursday said he's communicated to Xi that the US is "not looking for confrontation" with China, but knows "there'll be steep, steep competition."

Biden also said he told Xi that "as long as you and your country continue to so blatantly violate human rights, we are going to continue in an unrelenting way to call it to the attention of the world, and make it clear, make it clear, what's happening. And he understood that."

Addressing trade practices, Biden said the US will "insist that China play by the international rules."

The contentious dynamic between the US and China was always expected to dominate Biden's foreign policy agenda. Relations between Washington and Beijing hit a historic low in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which then-President Donald Trump blamed on the Chinese government.

Top experts have warned that the US and China are stumbling toward a new Cold War that could devastate the global economy. In a speech less than a week after Biden's inauguration, Xi warned against the dangers of such a conflict, stating it will "only push the world into division and even confrontation."

In the first high-level meeting between US and Chinese officials under the Biden administration, Secretary of State Antony Blinken got into a verbal spat with China's top diplomat. The testy exchange, which took place in Alaska last week, was emblematic of the present state of US-China relations. Biden said he was "proud" of Blinken after the meeting.

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