President Trump on Thursday seized on former vice president Joe Biden’s claim that China is “not competition for us,” calling the 2020 Democratic presidential contender “very naive” on the issue.
“If Biden actually said that, that’s a very dumb statement,” Trump said in an interview Thursday night with Fox News Channel.
Trump’s comments mark the latest sparring between the president and the presumptive front-runner for the 2020 Democratic nomination. The two have previously traded jabs over Trump’s response to the 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville.
On Wednesday, Biden prompted criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike when he appeared to dismiss the notion that the United States should be worried about China as a geopolitical competitor.
“China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man,” Biden said at a campaign stop in Iowa City. He added that China’s leaders “can’t figure out how they’re going to deal with the corruption that exists within the system. I mean, you know, they’re not bad folks, folks. But guess what? They’re not competition for us.”
China is currently the world’s second-largest economy and is expected to overtake the United States within the next decade. Its expanding military capability also poses an increasing threat to U.S. defense superiority, according to a Defense Intelligence Agency report released in January.
The assessment by the Pentagon’s intelligence agency emphasized China’s emerging status as a global military player, following Beijing’s establishment of permanent external facilities in the Horn of Africa and the South China Sea.
Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said the former vice president believes the United States “can compete and win against anyone, including China,” by investing in America’s “core strengths” — its people, economy and “the greatest military the world has ever known.”
“He believes, apparently unlike others, that it is never a safe bet to bet against America and the fundamental strength, resilience, and ingenuity of its people,” Bates said in a statement. “If Republicans are so scared of Joe Biden that they want to take the other side of that bet to try and score political points, then they’re welcome to it.”
Trump’s criticism of Biden came after members of both parties took aim at his comments on Wednesday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), one of Biden’s competitors for the 2020 Democratic nomination, criticized Biden’s assessment of China as misguided.
“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,” Sanders said in a tweet.
Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), the GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee, weighed in as well, saying in a tweet on Biden’s remarks, “This will not age well.”
In Thursday’s Fox News Channel interview, Trump said “everyone is competition” and touted his administration’s tariffs on Chinese-imported goods — which the president has said he has no plans to quickly remove even if a broad trade agreement is reached.
“Is he being naive about China?” Trump was asked by Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge.
“Oh, he is being very naive about China,” Trump replied.
He maintained that both countries still have “a very good chance to have a great deal.”
“But for somebody to be so naive and say China is not a problem, if Biden actually said that, that’s a very dumb statement,” Trump said.
Missy Ryan contributed to this report.