G7 leaders adopt ‘Build Back Better World’ plan to rival China’s belt and road strategy
- The US, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Japan aim to show that the B3W plan can offer an alternative to China’s growing clout
- The leaders also agreed on an action plan to prevent future pandemics
The G7, whose leaders discussed strategic competition with Beijing during their meeting in southwestern England, has been searching for a coherent response to the growing assertiveness of Xi after China’s surging economic and military rise over the past 40 years.
“This is not just about confronting or taking on China,” a senior official in Biden’s administration said. “But until now we haven’t offered a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards and our way of doing business.”
The G7 and its allies will use the initiative to mobilise private sector capital in areas such as climate, health and health security, digital technology, and gender equity and equality, the White House said.
It was not immediately clear how the plan would exactly work or how much capital it would ultimately allocate.
China’s belt and road plan was launched by Xi in 2013 and involves development and investment initiatives stretching from Asia to Europe and beyond.
More than 100 countries have signed agreements with China to cooperate in BRI projects like railways, ports, highways and other infrastructure.
Critics say Xi’s plan to create a modern version of the ancient Silk Road trade route to link China with Asia, Europe and beyond is a vehicle for the expansion of Communist China. Beijing says such doubts betray the “imperial hangover” of many Western powers that humiliated China for centuries.
Leaders of the G7 – the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, France and Japan – want to use their gathering in the seaside resort of Carbis Bay to show the world that the richest democracies can offer an alternative to China’s growing clout.
The US official said until now, the West had failed to offer a positive alternative to the “lack of transparency, poor environmental and labour standards, and coercive approach” of the Chinese government that had left many countries worse off.
According to a Refinitiv database, as of mid-2020, more than 2,600 projects at a cost of US$3.7 trillion were linked to the belt and road plan, although the Chinese foreign ministry said last June that about 20 per cent of projects had been seriously affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of the G7 plan, the United States will work with the US Congress to supplement existing development financing and to “collectively catalyse hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment”, the White House said.
The United States also pushed the other G7 leaders for “concrete action on forced labour” in China, and to include criticism of Beijing in their final communique from a three-day summit, the US official said.
Biden planned to press the other leaders to make clear that they believe forced labour practices are an affront to human dignity and “an egregious example of China’s unfair economic competition”.
The Chinese foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the G7 infrastructure proposal or the US official’s remarks about forced labour.
The leaders also agreed on an action plan to prevent future pandemics. The “Carbis Bay Declaration” comprises a series of health policy commitments, with collective steps including slashing the time taken to develop and license vaccines, treatments and diagnostics for any future disease to under 100 days, while reinforcing global surveillance networks.
“The #CarbisBayDeclaration marks a proud and historic moment for us all,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter, as he chaired the second day of the three-day summit. “Under this agreement, the world’s leading democracies will commit to preventing a global pandemic from ever happening again, ensuring the devastation caused by Covid-19 is never repeated.”
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, criticised in some quarters for being too accommodating towards China where the coronavirus originated, welcomed the health pact.
He said the UN agency would examine a British proposal to create a “Global Pandemic Radar” to send early warnings of future outbreaks. “The world needs a stronger global surveillance system to detect new epidemic and pandemic risks,” Tedros said.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse