U.S. President Joe Biden offered in his recent State of the Union address something wholly divorced from reality. While bragging about his achievements since taking office, the U.S. leader also tried to hype up a "China threat," an attempt to gain popular support. "Today, we're in the strongest position in decades to compete with China or anyone else in the world," and "winning the competition with China should unite all of us."
Yet considering reality on the ground in the United States, the obsession with containing China's growth is truly bizarre.
At a time when pessimism permeates the United States, Biden boasting about the socioeconomic achievements of his administration over the past two years will only draw eye rolls and head shakes.
A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that most Americans don't believe Biden has accomplished much since taking office, with 41 percent of Americans saying they're worse off financially under the president.
Meanwhile, seven in 10 say the country is "going in the wrong direction." Biden's public approval rating stands at 41 percent, near the lowest level of his presidency, an NPR/Marist poll showed.
In the hyper-optimistic speech, Biden tried to convince his audience inside U.S. Capitol and beyond that the country had regained its global clout. Yet, crippling governance and a corrupt system are eroding public faith in the government. The world is losing faith in the United States, too.
Decision-makers in Washington seem perfectly fine with leaving the country's problems unsolved. The marathon election for speaker of the House is a clear reminder of how U.S. politicians get lost in divisive partisan politics, leaving America's body politic increasingly dysfunctional.
Those who brand themselves as public servants are addicted to partisan power games. Meanwhile, the American public is struggling with a widening wealth gap, social divisions, rampant gun and police violence, as well as rising hate crimes and racial discrimination.
Showing little interest in resolving its own problems, the world's most powerful nation wastes no time stoking conflict abroad.
While Biden tried to play up the threat of China, he downplayed the Asian country's growth prospects. But the facts speak louder than words.
Data showed that from 2020 to 2022, the Chinese economy posted annual average growth of 4.5 percent, outpacing the world average of 1.8 percent and higher than those of other major economies.
Since the beginning of the year, the Chinese economy has delivered an impressive performance with an accelerated recovery following the country's adjustment of its COVID control measures and timely introduction of pro-growth policies.
Eyeing growth prospects, international institutions have improved their predictions for China's economic growth in 2023. The International Monetary Fund has raised its forecast for China's economic growth this year to 5.2 percent, up from a previous prediction of 4.4 percent.
The Financial Times reported that global investors have snapped up a record 21 billion U.S. dollars worth of Chinese equities this year as robust economic data spurs traders to make larger bets.
It has been a common political ploy for Washington to bash China to divert attention when things go wrong. Biden and his team are following the old formula, notably at a time when hostility against China can deliver bipartisan support.
In his book, "Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China," Stephen Roach, senior fellow and lecturer at Yale University, said China has emerged as America's favorite foreign scapegoat, allowing the latter to play the victim.
However, no matter how well Washington plays its anti-China game, America's deep-seated problems will remain: a staggeringly high national debt, a cost-of-living squeeze and looming risks of a recession. U.S. policymakers must focus on delivering for the American people.
In his speech, Biden said the United States "must be the nation we have always been at our best." Yet, political whitewashing is dangerously misleading, and fearmongering will only bring misjudgment.
As for China-U.S. relations, attempting to contain another country's legitimate rights to develop in the name of competition is irresponsible.
China's advancement or America's progress presents opportunities, rather than poses challenges, for each other. The world is big enough for the two countries to develop individually and collectively. The United States, as the world's most powerful nation, should behave like a responsible major country.
And that starts with fixing America's own woes.