US President Joe Biden suggested the West develop a plan to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), during a phone conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday.
“I suggested we should have, essentially, a similar initiative, pulling from the democratic states, helping those communities around the world that need help,” Biden told reporters.
Essentially that would mean trying to sign up countries in Asia, Africa, and Europe to build infrastructure projects which, while they may benefit the countries involved, are chiefly designed to frustrate Beijing’s global ambitions.
Some may say the idea comes years too late.
Chinese President Xi Jinping launched the BRI program in 2013, creating the world’s largest infrastructure programme with multi-trillion dollar plans for international development and investment, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The programme was originally intended to unite the Asian superpower with neighbouring countries, known in China as “One Belt, One Road” in tribute to the ancient Silk Road, but has now won agreements or investments in 139 countries – accounting for 40% of the worlds’ GDP.
The majority of countries that have joined the BRI plan now rely in part on China for development of 5G networks, ports, railways, and power plants.
The multi-nation agreement is making the US and its allies anxious that China is using the initiative to extend its influence around the world.
It remains unclear if the UK or other allied nations would be interested in establishing a multi-nation infrastructure system to rival China’s.