Commentators were struck by the ambition of the American Jobs Plan, the US$2.6 trillion infrastructure proposals put forward by President Biden during 2021. The article considers the reasons why, despite hyper-partisanship and entrenched institutional obstacles that were to doom many of the proposals, the Biden administration put forward plans on a scale that dwarfed those of earlier reforming presidents. It argues that a large part of the answer lies in the character of framing processes and shifting perceptions of China. A policy that cannot be framed in ways deemed to be credible cannot secure traction. The US turn against Beijing and the concept of ‘strategic competition’ provided the Biden administration and Democrats with the basis for constructing a frame that legitimized their hopes of modernizing and transforming the structural character of the American economy so as to fend off the economic and strategic challenge posed by China. Although much of the Plan did not come to legislative fruition, this was a frame that the Biden White House saw as a way of building a broad coalitional bloc that could advance a progressive economic agenda.
Bibliographical notePublished online: 29 Mar 2022.
- Belt and road initiative