CHENGDU, China â€” 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 â€œwill never defaultâ€ and continue to work to lower its budget deficit.
Referring to the debt-ceiling agreement that averted a default this month, Biden passed blame from foreign soil on what he called the â€œstrong voiceâ€ within the Republican Party that prevented an even stronger deal, and predicted that the issue will ultimately be decided in the 2012 campaign.
â€œThe American people are going to speak on that,â€ he said.
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 â€œa stake in one anotherâ€™s success,â€ and touted the Obama administrationâ€™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 focused on a message of reassurance. In one such meeting Friday, he quoted Chinese Vice President Xi Jingping, who called the American economy â€œresilient.â€
â€œI believe America is even better equipped to compete in the economy of the future than it was in the past,â€ Biden said.
The United States has â€œan over arching interest in protectingâ€ Chinaâ€™s heavy investment in U.S. treasuries, given the considerably larger share held in the United States itself.
â€œThe United States has never defaulted, and never will,â€ 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 reduce its debt.
Biden called the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standard & Poorâ€™s â€œdisturbing and bothersome to us.â€
â€œWe made some significant progress, but not the progress we could have made and will make,â€ 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.
â€œBut 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,â€ he said.
Still, despite recent economic challenges, Biden called the United States â€œthe single best bet in the world in terms of where to invest.â€
â€œWe do have to deal with the deficit, we will deal with it,â€ he said. â€œAnd thatâ€™s what this 2012 election is going to be about.â€
Biden is to conclude his time in China on Sunday by spending additional time with Xi, likely Chinaâ€™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 to Mongolia on Monday before finishing his Asia tour in Japan on Tuesday and Wednesday.