Washington (CNN) - White House aides were prepping President Joe Biden to virtually tour an electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant last week when the President suddenly shifted the conversation to something else entirely: China and the fate of democracy.
Sitting in the Oval Office, one of Biden's economic advisers had just pointed out that China was dominating the battery market, launching the President into a riff about the need to make the necessary investments to counter China's dominance in that industry.
But for Biden, this was about more than batteries. It was another example of what he views as a critical task of his presidency: Proving that democracy works amid the rise of brutally efficient autocracies.
"My job is to show people that government has a role and that this loss of public trust in government can be rebuilt," Biden said, according to an aide in the room who was taking notes. "And this is a concrete way we do it."
Senior White House aides said the concept is constantly on Biden's mind -- a "central organizing principle," in the words of one senior official. It informs his approach to most major topics and the President regularly raises it in meetings, whether he is discussing foreign policy or electric bus batteries. And aides say Biden believes it is a key test by which historians will judge his presidency.
He is concerned about the rise of autocrats around the world but pays special attention to China these days. His administration is closely monitoring this rival's every strategic move -- including, lately, their diplomatic push to distribute Covid vaccines to developing nations around the world.
Enter your email to sign up for CNN's The Point with Chris Cillizza.
Read More (...)