US rivals China’s BRI

US President Joe Biden is on his first overseas visit to attend the G7 Summit in England. The visit is being hailed as the return of the United States to the world stage as it seeks to counter the growing clout by China and Russia.

The Group of Seven rich countries have unveiled a massive infrastructure initiative in a bid to counter China’s multi-trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Chinese President Xi Jinping spearheaded this ambitious project dubbed the ‘New Silk Road’ eight years ago comprising of infrastructure projects like railways, ports, and highways in over 100 countries worth a staggering $3.7 trillion. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in a portion of the BRI considered the most ambitious as it envisages huge investments to link Xinjiang region with the Arabian Sea.

The Chinese gradually managed to gain influence during Trump’s presidency who sparred with Beijing on trade and imposed economic sanctions. Even before the election, Joe Biden had hinted at a project similar to the BRI for lower-income countries. The US has now come up with the ‘Build Back Better Word’ (B3W) project to confront China and provide an alternate position for the world. The White House said it will narrow the $40 trillion infrastructure need in developing countries with manageable debt.

The G7 and its allies will use the B3W initiative to mobilise private-sector capital focusing on four main subjects – climate, health and health security, digital technology, gender equity and equality – with help of development institutions. The bigger obstacle lied ahead to convince countries to break from Chinese investments and welcome the United States. The project aims for Latin America, Africa and Indo-Pacific where China has huge influence while the US is viewed with hesitancy due to its controversial past.

The BRI has been working for eight years while B3W is still a concept. It is also unsure how much funds will be allocated and how the infrastructure gap will be filled within the next decade. The West is still obsessed with China whose rise to become the world’s second-largest economy is perhaps the most significant geopolitical event in recent times. The infrastructure plan shows that we continue to live in a bi-polar world. Nations will be placed with an even critical decision on being aligned with the West or China.