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Biden's speech full of sound and fury

By Martin Sieff | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-02-08 19:56

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the US Capitol, Tuesday, Feb 7, 2023, in Washington. [Photo/Agencies]

US President Joe Biden's annual State of the Union address was far more significant for what it did not say, especially in the field of international relations and global security, than what it did say: because it said nothing at all.

Biden did, however, make clear what his idea of a dialogue with China was. There was bluff, bluster and empty threats. If China threatened the United States' sovereignty, he said, the US would act. There were, of course, no details as to where that threat might arise since China has not undertaken any military action to threaten US sovereignty, though Biden's own administration has used the case of a single drifting balloon to claim such a threat.

Biden's address, delivered with superficial boldness, confidence and energy, had remarkable similarities to a primitive balloon itself. It was full of hot air and empty boasting. It was lighter than the atmosphere and it had no coherent direction. Like a balloon, his speech drifted with the winds. There was not a single friendly, warm, positive or constructive suggestion in it to improve relations with Beijing.

Biden indulged in his favorite theme of US virtue and self-righteousness.

Even Biden was forced by circumstances to refer to some of the appalling domestic problems currently plaguing his country. Crime is spiraling out of control. He admitted a horrendous domestic drug abuse epidemic, acknowledging that 70,000 Americans were dying every year from fentanyl abuse. Even this figure angered Republican critics among the audience as the usual figure discussed is around 100,000 deaths a year.

Biden tried to boast of progress in fighting inflation, but it is still running at nearly 7 percent a year, and his efforts to try and demonize and cut back on US imports from China are just adding to the problem.

Biden also indulged in patent absurdities and outright lies, especially in his claim that under his leadership the US had made the world a safer place. Yet while the US president continues to falsely accuse and posture against China, his administration has simultaneously continued to pour advanced weapons systems into Ukraine, prolonging the worst war Europe has seen since 1945 and threatening Russia, a thermonuclear superpower.

The president also spoke only four days after his chief diplomat, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, used the excuse of the balloon incident to cancel what was supposed to be a serious and constructive visit to Beijing, allegedly to seek to start a new constructive dialogue. However, in reality, of course, based on Blinken's clearly established and repetitive track record of the past two years, it would have been no such thing: Blinken had made clear he was only going to use the trip as a rhetorical platform to lecture and abuse China.

More than half a century ago, former US president Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had visited Beijing for the first time. That trip resulted in a historic and constructive positive transformation in Sino-American relations that ensured generations of peace and growing prosperity between the two great nations and for the entire Indo-Pacific region.

Nixon and Kissinger worked long and seriously with their Chinese counterparts to prepare the way for that mission: They both understood that due process, patience, restraint, public dignity and respect as well as the offering and discussion of concrete proposals and concessions are essential to maintaining and establishing peace and building lasting understanding and accord between nations.

In contrast, Biden's petulant, childish and even abusive comments on China in his showcase presentation on Tuesday night fail to meet any of those standards.

Instead, the US president's speech was, as the classic English playwright William Shakespeare — himself no stranger to both the uses and abuses of political rhetoric — wrote more than 400 years ago, "A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

The author is a senior fellow at the American University in Moscow.

The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily

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