Former vice president Joe Biden plans to announce a new, hardened stance on China Tuesday, when he will tell Iowans that the country is "a real threat" to U.S. interests.
"We are in a competition with China. We need to get tough with China," Biden plans to say at a campaign event in Iowa according to prepared remarks, which add that China engages in "cheating" and "abusive behavior" economically.
Biden, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee before becoming Barack Obama's vice president, raised eyebrows by downplaying the influence of the world's second-largest economy earlier this year when he said "they're not competition for us."
"China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man," Biden said at a campaign stop in Iowa in April. "They can't figure out how they're going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. They're not bad folks, folks."
Although Biden's planned Tuesday remarks are harshly critical of President Trump's approach to China as a "damaging and erratic trade war," they echo the president's frequent talking point that China is a threat, calling the country "a serious challenge to us, and in some areas a real threat."
"China is pressing its advantage all over the world," Biden will say. "And every single step that Donald Trump is taking is only exacerbating the challenge."
The White House raised tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese imports from 10 to 25 percent last month after accusing the country of reneging on the terms of a trade deal it had previously agreed to. The U.S. also currently has a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion worth of Chinese high-tech products.
Biden and others have criticized the tariffs, saying American consumers and businesses are eating the cost, not China's economy.
The leading Democratic presidential candidate says his solution involves a new "initiative in scientific research, cutting-edge infrastructure, and a modern workforce that will help American workers and entrepreneurs compete and win."
"We need to rally more than half the world's economy to hold China to account for their cheating. And get a chorus of voices speaking out on China's repression," Biden will say.