The Group of Seven summit in Germany on June 26 to 28 committed to raising $600 billion over the course of five years to finance infrastructure projects in developing nations. This initiative, the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, is intended to overshadow the China-proposed, multitrillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative. Some even project that the PGII will supersede the BRI. In my opinion, no.
Let us begin by acknowledging the new initiative. The PGII can finance and facilitate infrastructure projects in developing countries that need funding. While it is anticipated that the US will contribute $200 billion, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen declared $317.28 billion in support for the program. According to the BBC, the PGII will exclusively focus on “climate change, improving global health, achieving gender equity and building digital infrastructure”.
China has been open on the BRI. Zhao Lijian, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “China continues to welcome all initiatives to promote global infrastructure development. We believe that there is no question that various related initiatives will replace each other. We are opposed to pushing forward geopolitical calculations under the pretext of infrastructure construction or smearing the Belt and Road Initiative.”
However, it is a Cold War mindset to pitch the PGII against the BRI. It seems that politicians behind the PGII are attempting to recast the BRI, an orderly development plan, as a global power grab and to rehabilitate the West’s reputation as a unified and potent player on the world stage.
Leaders of the G7 are incapable of restoring the group’s diminished heft and lost influence solely by denouncing the BRI.
Such superfluous intent would only turn previously mutually beneficial cooperation into vehement animosity. Though they have touted their new infrastructure plans across the globe, there has not been much progress seen in countries in Latin America, Asia or Africa.
As things stand, the PGII will be unable to adequately combat the BRI. The $600 billion that the West has committed to contribute is a mere drop in the ocean compared with the more than $4 trillion that analysts have estimated China will spend to build and develop the infrastructure for the Belt and Road. China has reportedly already spent $500 billion, according to the World Bank.
Furthermore, amid a period of growing inflation and looming recession, it is dubious that the G7 countries will manage to deliver the promised $600 billion. The United States, for instance, is trillions in debt and its own infrastructure is in dire need of repair. The US Congress’ willingness to authorize extra funding for projects under the PGII appears unrealistic.
Since President Xi Jinping proposed the BRI in 2013, the initiative has been profoundly changing the landscape of more than 60 nations in Asia, Europe and Africa, transforming societies and economies.
“In pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, we should ensure that when it comes to different civilizations, exchange will replace estrangement, mutual learning will replace clashes, and coexistence will replace a sense of superiority,” Xi said at the Belt and Road Forum’s opening ceremony in 2017. “This will boost mutual understanding, respect and trust among different countries,” he added.
China is not the Soviet Union, and the BRI is not the Warsaw Pact. The world has evolved since the Cold War, and the West must adjust. As the second-largest economy in the world today, China is becoming more and more significant and influential in world affairs. Containing China would be likened to the Cold War, and such action should be vehemently opposed.
The PGII should serve a greater purpose, rather than striving to contain China, and the West should cooperate to create a more prosperous and united society.
As a political doctrine upon which the West is founded, liberalism ought to emphasize collaborating with others to build a better world as opposed to containing them. The BRI fundamentally seeks to achieve a sustainable and inclusive environment, and the West ought to encourage it rather than work to thwart it. The West should not conceive of the world as a “zero-sum game” that only serves the interests of a few.
The world is certainly large enough to accommodate both the BRI and the PGII, and developing economies need more help if Western PGII promoters genuinely seek to assist the populace. But if G7 politicians use the PGII to demonize China, it will not only turn out to be ineffectual, inadequate and incapable of derailing the BRI, it will also turn the developing world more against the rich nations.
The author is founder of Save HK and a member of the central committee of the New People’s Party of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
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