China’s Belt and Road Initiative
The Chinese initiative that envisions the creation of land and sea routes to span three continents presents opportunities for the United States that must not be squandered.
That was the consensus of experts who participated in a panel discussion at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank, on October 4.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is planned to link over sixty countries. The BRI “is a generational project and it will take a long time,” said Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security. “The US needs to engage now.”
The US will miss out if it passes on the BRI, according to C. Boyden Gray, who served as counsel to George H.W. Bush as vice president and president. “China and Europe will have the opportunity of teaming up and setting the standards for everything that is commercial.”
The concern over BRI, which is expected to cost over $3 trillion, it that it has the potential to jumpstart an era of global trade dominance for China.
The Trump administration, although engaging with China on a range of trade and economic issues has largely ignored BRI, although a US delegation did attend the Belt and Road Forum (BARF) in Beijing earlier this year. President Donald Trump’s first trip to China as president is scheduled for next month.
Luft argued for “constructive participation,” which would involve embracing the vision of connectivity while actively supporting only those pieces that align with US geopolitical strategy.
“This initiative cannot be looked upon purely under a geopolitical lens,” said Luft, who advocated integrating geo-economics and a geopolitics into the US approach.
Trump’s upcoming China, according to the White House, is intended to “strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat.” Luft argued that approach is misguided.
“US-China relations need more areas of cooperation,” he said. “Most of our conversation with China is about North Korea, the South China Sea, and trade. But none of those issues are resolvable… those issues can at best be managed.”
“America can benefit a lot from this Belt and Road,” said Luft, because it will create infrastructure that will give US companies greater access to consumers who are currently difficult to reach.
US involvement in BRI could help tackle the issue of poverty in Asia. “More than two billion people [in Asia] do not have access to electricity, internet, transportation, and communications” he said. “That really undermines global growth at a time when we need global growth.”