Chinese government officials and researchers have argued for years that China could work with the United States on infrastructure, helping to improve America’s roads, bridges, railways and subways. The rationale is simple. The US needs to upgrade its infrastructure while Chinese firms are particularly good at such work. If the US were to hire Chinese firms to do some of the job, it will not only help to boost the flows of trade, people and money but also build up goodwill and trust. On the surface, the massive US$2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan could open new potential for the world’s two biggest economies to work together. After all, China has a track record of building things in a quick and efficient way. According to the Engineering News Record, the top five global contractors in 2020, measured by revenues outside their home countries, were Chinese companies. However, the prospect of Chinese engineers, workers and even equipment taking part in American infrastructure projects has never been more distant. Strategic mistrust of Beijing runs deep in Washington while the American public’s dislike of China has increased to record highs. As a matter of fact, one of the key reasons that Biden is pushing infrastructure spending is the fear that China will “eat our lunch” if America does not do a good job itself in transport and the environment. For any Chinese business to take part, it would have to overcome high political, institutional and legal barriers, possibly including an extensive review on national security grounds. That alone could keep Chinese businesses at bay. There might be certain efficiency losses given China’s comparative advantages in digging tunnels, fixing bridges and paving roads. But in the current political climate, it’s hard to imagine that a Chinese state-owned engineering company could be a big winner in Biden’s “once-in-a generation investment in America”. Biden pledges to prevent China from becoming the world’s ‘leading’ country The likely exclusion of Chinese companies, in turn, will erode the concept that economic and trade ties are the foundation for a broad US-China relationship. It could feed rising nationalism and potentially give China reasons to make life harder for US businesses. This is yet another example of the world’s two largest economies drifting further and further away from each other, bringing the world into dangerously choppy waters.