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Analysing Biden’s State of the Union Address

Image Credit: AP News
Analysing Biden's State of the Union Address

US President Joe Biden recently presented the famous State of the Union address. He touched upon domestic and foreign policy affairs during his presidency and their status. Before going into details, it is relevant to mention the importance of the address for US politics and world affairs. One of the dominant aspects of this speech is that, as the US is a leading power in international politics, whatever its President says in an official ceremony holds significance and relevance for a domestic and foreign audience.

The essence of its value lies in the fact that the US President gets the chance to review the year’s successes and outline the agenda for the new year during a speech to a joint session of Congress. Besides, the annual address at the US Capitol also serves as a prime example of American democracy in action, apart from during a President’s first year in office. The unique aspect of it is that it is the only occasion when all three branches of the federal government are present, except during inaugurations and senior state officials’ funerals. The Supreme Court justices represent the judicial branch, House of Representatives and Senate members represent the legislative branch, and the President represents the executive branch. The majority of the Cabinet, or the President’s most trusted departmental representatives, are also present. The constitutional cover also exists to support this address. The President  “must from time to time deliver to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and suggest to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient,” according to Article II, Section 3, clause 1 of the constitution.

The recent address focused more on domestic issues ranging from the health sector to the American economy. However, President Biden also spoke about China in the foreign affairs agenda.

The above facts uncover how the vitality of the State of the Union address springs from the constitution and strong democratic norms in US politics, where the US President is obliged to inform over the State of the Union. By keeping the tradition and practice alive, Joe Biden delivered this address for the second time in his tenure.

The recent address focused more on domestic issues ranging from the health sector to the American economy. However, President Biden also spoke about China in the foreign affairs agenda. One can infer from the recent address that the US faces intertwined problems sprouting from financial matters. The mention of China in Biden’s address confirms that the US is occupied by China’s emergence throughout its foreign policy agenda. Last year’s US National Security Strategy policy was a preview of it. In addition, the admiration for democracy as a system and reflection on the future of autocracies in future point toward the notion that the future conflict would remain within the two systems as the world has experienced during the Cold War years. It is difficult at this time to fully conceive the picture of the future conflict between the US and China. However, the economic domain might shape the high-tech competition between the two countries as the dominant feature.

On the other hand, President’s speech tried to address the pertinent issues the US is facing domestically. The focus remained on the unity of the people and their faith in the “Union”. He added by appreciating the resilience of the American nation, saying, “the story of America is the story of progress and resilience. Of always moving forward and never, ever giving up.”  However, the President emphasised the policy reforms on legislation related to immigration and absorption rights as well. It can also be inferred from the address that the President was trying to convince the Republicans to come together and rebuild America through a common cause, leaving behind the differences. This may sound somewhat like rhetorical remarks without substance. But, it is worth being discussed here because of the nature of the American political system, where bipartisan politics has always played a critical role in decision-making. Nevertheless, Joe Biden’s urge for internal political unification may seem like an attempt to secure his political score. On the other side of deliverables, President cornered his focus around health and the economy, for instance, by mentioning the price cap of insulin at 35 US dollars per month and safeguarding the American economy through expanding the taxation and routing supply chain reliance of America overseas towards manufacturing at home approach.

As far as the foreign affairs of the US are concerned, China remained the focus, as mentioned above, where President  Biden reiterated the importance of US sovereignty and its execution in the matter of the mysterious balloon in recent days. Moreover, the presence of the Ukrainian ambassador in the gallery and the pledge of the American President for continued support to Ukraine over the Russian-Ukrainian conflict actually is a gesture to Russia where American affirmation of democracy will compound international politics in the coming years.

In terms of duration, the address remained more focused on domestic issues, but its significance for foreign affairs cannot be neglected. The overall analysis of the recent State of the Union address conveys that Joe Biden was fully cognizant of the domestic and foreign engagement of the US, both currently and in years to come. The mention of China and the presence of the Ukrainian ambassador were an indication of the fact that international politics will remain competitive and that the US will confront China and Russia simultaneously by invoking a sense of urgency through economic, military, and technological means.

Dr. Tauseef Javed

Tauseef Javed works at the Center for Strategic and Contemporary Research (CSCR) as a Research Associate. He has completed his Ph.D. from Fujian Normal University in Fuzhou, China. His research focuses on US economic aid policy toward Pakistan, international relations, history, and area studies from an interdisciplinary perspective. He can be reached at tjsatti2018@gmail.com

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