Does the United States offer a quality alternative to the Chinese belt and road?
However, the United States and China should not see each other as competitors in this type of financing, observers say.
The Belt and Road initiative explained
The partnership is under the banner of the Blue Dot Network, an initiative founded by the Australian, Japanese and US governments in 2019 to attract private investment in infrastructure, especially in developing countries.
Commercial lenders in the United States and many developed countries regard low-income countries, especially those in Africa, as risky and have refrained from financing projects in these countries, leaving the way for many Chinese companies to obtain contracts, from Africa to Asia and the Americas.
As part of this partnership, the United States and their allies, Japan and Australia, with technical support from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, will tackle corruption and certify “quality projects.” Which meet the network’s “rigorous international standards”.
B3W was launched in June with plans to invest $ 40 trillion in developing countries by 2035, including Africa, where China is the world’s largest financier and infrastructure entrepreneur. Under B3W, projects will have to meet the highest global standards in areas such as procurement transparency and related governance issues – a regular criticism of China’s belt and road.
David Shinn, a professor at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, said Blinken’s comments at the launch on Tuesday sounded like a counterpoint to the belt and the road without saying it directly. But the G7 and China did not have to be in opposition.
“In my opinion, the G7 would be well advised to pursue the B3W initiative without reference to the [belt and road]”Shinn said.
“These are different initiatives and one does not exclude the other. The more distance we can put between B3W and the [belt and road], the best. The B3W should move forward on its own merits.
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Chris Alden, professor of international relations at the London School of Economics, said Blinken’s announcement was based on collaborative efforts to restore market share in the infrastructure sector in regions dominated by belt and road, especially in Africa.
“The allure of standards and in particular the emphasis on fighting corruption provides a counterweight to the narratives emanating from Beijing that have proved so compelling to African governments over the past decade, namely the lack of conditionalities from China and the speed of delivery of infrastructure projects relative to OECD donors and the World Bank, ”Alden said.
Seifudein Adem, professor of world studies at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, agreed that the US efforts were a reaction to China’s policies and activities, rather than the result of intrinsic interest.
Adem said the idea of countering the belt and the road with “high quality infrastructure” in Africa was expressed by former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Tokyo International Conference on Africa’s Development. in Nairobi in August 2016.
In all cases, the support of the United States and the G7 has been positive.
“It is indeed a good thing that there appears to be a resurgence of interest in investing in Africa’s infrastructure. Africa has a huge infrastructure deficit; he should enthusiastically welcome any investment he can get, ”he said.
Jonathan Hillman, senior researcher and director of the Reconnecting Asia project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Blinken’s comments to the OECD reflected a strategic shift in both substance and style.
“The fundamental change is that the United States is now focusing more on expanding the availability of high-quality infrastructure projects globally,” Hillman said.
“The change in style is that American officials are spending less time publicly criticizing what their competitors are doing and more time talking about the benefits of what the United States and its allies are offering. This message is more likely to resonate in the developing world. “
One of the first examples of cooperation was a submarine cable extension to Palau co-funded by the United States, Japan and Australia, the three countries were also the primary driving force behind the Blue Dot network, said Hillman.
“I expect more projects to follow, not only through Blue Dot and the G7 Build Back Better World partnership, but also through the Quad, which includes India and has a new coordination group. infrastructure, ”he said.