Responding to Belt and Road

I didn’t want this post at The Hill by Jennifer Hillman and David Sacks on the G-7’s announced “Build Back a Better World” pass without comment. Here’s a snippet:

The Biden administration should be applauded for prioritizing a response to Belt and Road and partnering with the G7 nations to offer a transparent, sustainable, responsible alternative. But it is unlikely that this new initiative, termed “Build Back Better World,” will be enough to compete with Belt and Road.

Belt and Road is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy endeavor and the largest-ever global infrastructure undertaking — funding and building roads, power plants, ports, railways, 5G networks and fiber-optic cables around the world. In many ways, Belt and Road filled a void left by the United States, its allies and the multilateral development banks.

In too many instances, China is the only country offering to fund critical infrastructure projects in low- and middle-income countries, while in other cases China is more competitive than the United States because it can move quickly from planning to construction and offers the ability to work with a single group of builders, financiers and government officials.

I don’t think that the U. S. needs to respond to “Belt and Road” and moreover our putative allies in the G-7 aren’t reliable partners for such a venture. There are any number of reasons for my views. First, I think China’s policy of non-intervention is a better one for building China’s repute in the non-aligned world. Lending money may make you a few temporary friends but it can also produce, shall we say, unforeseen secondary effects like this. Here’s another example of that. China is heavily involved in Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam—one of the developments most likely to provoke a major war in Africa. Sometimes one country’s development program is another country’s destruction of essential ressources.

Second, what’s the objective? If it’s to line the pockets of a few local politicians, an infrastructure lending program is a darned good way to do it. If it’s to build infrastructure maybe not so much.

Third, our putative allies, France and Germany in particular write a heckuva good press release but are perhaps not as good at follow-through as might be needed. And keep in mind that more involvement from their former colonial overlords might not a all that bright a prospect for many countries in the world.

Finally, IMO there is no better way for the U. S. to boost its soft power than to rebuild its own society and economy and by that I mean more primary production, more research and development, more national infrastructure (things like a resilient power grid, a sound currency, dependable and just enforcement of laws, and so on). Increasing primary production would put the administration at odds with some of the people on whom it depends for political support, flying in the face of the “green reform” they prefer.

So what about not invading other countries? That would be a darned good way of building up U. S. soft power, too.

2 comments… add one
  • bob sykes Link

    BRI is central to Chinese defense, while BBBW is just a PR stunt, hence the difference in commitment.

  • Grey Shambler Link

    Is it possible that Asia Times is a propaganda news service?

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