Competing vision falls short
SONG CHEN/CHINA DAILY
G7's alternative to Belt and Road embodies West's belligerent narrative of rivalry and competition rather than the all-inclusive cooperation of China's initiative
In the contemporary era, countries depend upon socioeconomic alignments to attain a significant position in the comity of nations in pursuit of collective goals. Therefore, various multilateral economic projects have been initiated or resurrected in the pursuance of such goals. In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the Belt and Road Initiative, following in the footsteps of the ancient Silk Road. Profound and ambitious in its reach and scope to ensure complementary advantages, it can sustain developmental processes and outcomes, by linking the entire Eurasian continent and its near and far periphery.
The Belt and Road Initiative offers a plethora of opportunities. It has already been a successful project for global economic cooperation and development, denoting a win-win approach for all participants. In recent days, G7 countries have decided to inaugurate an infrastructure financing mechanism for low- to middle-income countries. But this is designed to counter China's Belt and Road Initiative, and it is likely to face challenges in building acceptance simply based on this premise.
The world has a huge infrastructure gap, which is widening. Well-functioning, modern infrastructure is a central requirement for inclusive economic development and sustainable growth. There have been relatively few attempts to track and monitor infrastructure investment across countries and sectors. But according to an Oxford Economics estimation, global infrastructure investment needs to be $94 trillion between 2016 and 2040.This is 19 percent higher than would be delivered under current trends and is an average of $3.7 trillion per year. Therefore, to meet this investment need, the world will have to increase the proportion of GDP, it dedicates to infrastructure to 3.5 percent, compared to the 3 percent expected under recent trends.
In this context, it is highly significant to discuss and highlight the exceptional benefits associated with the Belt and Road Initiative to bridge the infrastructure gap around the world. Greater alliance among the world's countries is important for the expeditious socioeconomic development of all regions. Under the ambit of the Belt and Road Initiative, many states have adopted effective and prudent strategies to modernize and diversify their economies. The result-orientated policies by the visionary Chinese leadership will ultimately prove to be a driving force for the amicable resolution of common threats and persistent challenges.
The West, especially the United States, has remained a prominent rival to Chinese-led initiatives. The US hopes to curb the rise of China through negative propaganda and media campaigns. The G7-led infrastructure financial mechanism is in its preliminary stage, and the exact timeline has not been announced yet. But US President Joe Biden has pledged that this plan will focus on joint projects and robust infrastructure mechanism to assist weak countries. Moreover, crucial initiatives of financial importance will be commenced in low- to middle-income countries. It has also been claimed that these efforts will set new benchmarks in areas such as financial sustainability with the special emphasis on improving cooperation vis-a-vis laying foundation for a better world.
However, this agenda is likely to face many impediments and consensus-building issues. The project might be effective if it was really intended to assist and integrate nations across the globe. However, this is not the case as it is a clear extension of the US' campaign to contain China. Here lies an important question: How can it promote sustained global economic growth if it excludes the world's second-largest economy? The project proposed by the West can never compete with China's Belt and Road Initiative. Through China's investment and projects of inclusive economic growth, the landscape of many countries, even the regions, have been changed.
The US is trying to pursue its vested interests via coercive diplomatic actions and vicious negative rhetoric. But countries have not forgotten the colonial histories of Western countries.
The world is no longer unipolar but multipolar. Countries are inclined toward economic integration and collaborations in pursuit of shared prosperity. More than 170 countries and international organizations have joined the initiative, proving the trust of these countries and organizations in the Chinese initiative. The targets of the G7 plan fall short by a fair margin by excluding China and embodying a belligerent narrative of rivalry and competition. The integrated framework of the Belt and Road Initiative includes policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration, cultural exchanges, research and connecting people. While comparatively analyzing the initiative with the G7 plan, it is pertinent to highlight that Belt and Road Initiative projects have been successfully launched, constructed, and executed for almost a decade, and Chinese enterprises have invested about $17 billion in non-financial direct investments in projects in the countries associated with the Belt and Road Initiative. These billions of dollars are apart from the other modes of investment that have been authorized to facilitate infrastructure building plans under this initiative.
The Belt and Road Initiative is based on the principle of building a community with a shared future for mankind. President Xi has continuously emphasized the importance of creating a coherent and win-win economic environment for all the countries which are part of the Belt and Road Initiative under the auspices of this principle.
The world faces many grave challenges, and there is a pressing need for greater cooperation, not rivalries or fierce competition. The Belt and Road Initiative has already proved its worth. It will take time, resources, vigilant deliberations and management before the G7's initiative can match the success story of the Belt and Road Initiative. And that is without taking into account that any plan aimed at countering China's rise, will not be acceptable to the rest of the world. The G7 initiative will be welcomed only with Chinese inclusion.
The author is executive director of the Center for Global&Strategic Studies based in Islamabad. The author contributed this article to China Watch, a think tank powered by China Daily. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.