Experts: A political response to the BRI is not viable

Photo taken on Dec. 7, 2021 shows a section of the 27.1 km Nairobi Expressway which is being constructed by the China Road and Bridge Corporation (CRBC) in Nairobi, Kenya. [Photo/Xinhua]

US push for a global infrastructure program with Europe is misguided as a political response to China’s Belt and Road initiative, observers have said.

Stephen Smith, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, told Canada’s National Post: “If this new initiative is too focused on ‘fighting China’, it will fail. the recipients of this investment do not care about US-China competition. They don’t want to choose, they just want more investment.

Group of Seven leaders pledged on June 26 to raise $600 billion in private and public funds over five years to fund infrastructure in developing countries and counter China’s earlier multi-billion dollar initiative.

Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Institute of China-American Studies in Washington, told China Daily: “China cannot be contained in the global infrastructure and development space. Furthermore, with trillions of dollars of infrastructure underfunding in the developing world, there is ample room for multiple providers in global infrastructure.”

Gupta sees the intent of the so-called G7 Global Investment and Infrastructure Partnership, also known as PGII, as competing with the Belt and Road Initiative.

“Of course, we have seen many such initiatives announced by the West over the past two years, such as Build Back Better World, Global Gateway and the Blue Dot initiative,” Gupta said.

“None have made a visibly useful contribution so far to international development. So the question is whether PGII will be any better. The answer is probably no.”

Gupta said global infrastructure development “is not just about having deep pockets. It also requires patience, purpose and determination over the long term and project horizons. Global infrastructure development ambitions of the West do not seem to embody these qualities.

“Furthermore, these initiatives are too dependent on catalysis or mobilization of private sector money and engagement which, in the end, rarely seems to show up. PGII has a lot to prove before it can be taken. seriously,” he said.

Pete Sweeney, editor of Reuters Asia Economics, said in an opinion piece: “Financial aid with better governance and less geopolitics would be better. During the Cold War, the West threw billions of dollars into the Southern Hemisphere to wean states from the Soviet Union. Doing the same just to keep them away from China could yield similarly poor results. »

US President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders from the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan relaunched PGII during their annual gathering last month at Schloss Elmau in Germany .

Biden said the United States would use $200 billion in grants, federal funds and private investments over five years to support projects in low- and middle-income countries that help fight climate change, as well as to improve global health, gender equity and digital infrastructure.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told the assembly that Europe would provide 300 billion euros ($317 billion) to the initiative over the same period to build a sustainable alternative to the BRI. , which China launched in 2013.

“For nearly a decade, the West has struggled to respond to China’s Belt and Road Initiative,” Gyude Moore, Liberia’s former minister of public works, told National Public Radio in the States. “Their scathing criticism of Chinese lending and lending practices was not accompanied by a credible alternative,” Moore said.

Khalid Taimur Akram, executive director of the Center for Global & Strategic Studies, in Islamabad, Pakistan, previously questioned the G7’s focus on China when Biden launched the Build Back Better World counter-proposal there. one year old at the G7 summit in the UK.

Writing in Centreline Magazine in June 2021, Akram said that “a mere analysis of its feasibility to achieve such a financial miracle to match the pace of China’s BRI seems far removed from reality.”

“The agenda is likely to encounter many obstacles and consensus-building issues. The project could be effective if it really aimed to help and integrate nations around the world.

“However, this is not the case as it is a clear manifestation of the anti-China campaign,” he wrote. “Here lies an important question: how can global economic growth (be sustained) by excluding the second economy and rising superpower, China?”

The $600 billion investment pledge is not enough to fill global infrastructure gaps or replace the BRI, according to He Weiwen, a former economic and trade adviser to China’s consulates general in New York and San Francisco.

“Unless (the United States and the G7) provide more money and more favorable terms for African hosts, they cannot force African countries to choose sides,” he told the South. China Morning Post.

He said that despite the G7’s attempts to exclude China from telecommunications, clean energy and digital infrastructure, the best results would be achieved by collaborating through joint investment.

China is the most influential foreign power in Africa, according to a survey of African youth by the South Africa-based Ichikowitz Family Foundation. The survey found that Beijing is widely seen as having a positive influence, according to 76% of respondents.

“Right now, the United States is seen primarily as a supplier of security equipment,” Alden Young, a nonresident researcher at the Quincy Institute, told the Responsible Statecraft website. “It doesn’t have much to offer in terms of economic development.

“The Chinese in particular are seen as investing primarily in infrastructure,” he continued. “It is difficult for the United States to assume a leadership role if it is not competitive on the ground of the commercial, cultural or financial economy.”

Speaking on June 29 on the G7 plan, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “China always welcomes all initiatives to promote global infrastructure construction. oppose the promotion of geopolitical calculations under the banner of infrastructure building and words and deeds that attempt to smear and smear the Belt and Road Initiative.

In a reference to a Biden initiative that was blocked in the US Congress, he said: “Whether it’s the Build Back Better World initiative or something else, the international community wants to see real money and projects that actually benefit people”.

Yifan Xu in Washington and Reuters contributed to this story.

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