Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. (Michael A. Memoli / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Chengdu, China — Vice President Joe Biden used the keynote address of his four-day visit to China to again make a strong pitch about the health of the U.S. economy, stating that the nation “will never default” and continue to tackle its deficit challenge.
Referring to the debt-ceiling accord that averted such a default earlier this month, Biden passed blame from foreign soil on what he called the "strong voice" within the Republican Party that prevented an even stronger deal, and predicted it will ultimately be decided in the 2012 campaign.
"The American people are going to speak on that," he said.
Photos: Vice President Biden in China
In a broad-ranging speech at a local university in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Sunday morning, Biden also said the United States and China have “a stake in one another’s success,” and touted the Obama administration’s efforts to bolster ties with the Asian super-power.
He also made a delicate pitch for China to foster greater openness and freedom to its people.
But as was the case during meetings with government leaders in Beijing, Biden found himself focused on a message of reassurance. In one such meeting Friday, he quoted Chinese Vice President Xi Jingping, who called the American economy “resilient.”
“I believe America is even better equipped to compete in the economy of the future than it was in the past,” he said.
The United States has “an overarching interest in protecting” China’s heavy investment in U.S. treasuries, given the considerably larger share held in the United States itself.
“The United States has never defaulted, and never will,” he said.
Biden spoke to an audience of 400 at Sichuan University, most of which was hand-picked by the school.
After opening the speech to questions, a Chinese medical student asked, in English, for a fuller explanation of the steps America was taking to tackle its growing debt.
Biden called the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poor’s “disturbing and bothersome to us.”
“We made some significant progress, but not the progress we could have made and will make,” Biden said of congressional efforts, including the group he headed to deal with issues like entitlement reform. A tentative agreement that would have gone beyond the final debt deal was in place, Biden said.
“But there is a group within the Republican Party that has a very strong voice now that wanted different changes. That deal fell through at the very end,” he said.
Still, despite recent economic challenges, Biden called the United States “the single best bet in the world in terms of where to invest.”
“We do have to deal with the deficit, we will deal with it,” he said. "And that's what this 2012 election is going to be about."
Biden is set to conclude his time in China on Sunday by spending additional time with Xi, likely China’s future leader. The pair will head to Dujiangyan, a nearby city that was devastated in the May 2008 earthquake. He and Xi will dine together in Chengdu this evening.
Biden travels on to Mongolia on Monday before finishing his Asia tour in Japan on Tuesday and Wednesday.