China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) poses immense economic risks for nations globally, while G7’s Build Back Better World (B3W) needs more clarity to take on the challenge against Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) hegemonic plans, two key strategic affairs experts have said.
India is the only nation, due to its proximity to China, with a clear vision on how BRI is a dangerous proposition, and New Delhi has to evolve its own plans for counter the BRI project or to take a lead role in implementing G7’s B3W initiative, Cleo Paskal and Seshadri Chari have suggested.
The two strategic affairs experts were discussing “G7’s B3W versus CCP’s BRI: Development Funding or Debt Diplomacy” at a webinar hosted by Law and Society Alliance, a Delhi-headquartered think-tank, and DefenceCapital, a strategic affairs publication.
Montreal-based Cleo Paskal is an Associate Fellow with London-headquartered Chatham House and a Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific in the Center on Military and Political Power at the Washington DC-headquartered Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Manipal-based Seshadri Chari is the Secretary General of Mumbai-headquartered Forum for Integrated National Security, and a former Member of the Governing Council of Research and Information System for Developing Countries (RIS) and Director (International Affairs) at the Institute for National Security Studies.
The G7 nations, who met last month, had announced the B3W Initiative for development funding in democracies as a counter to BRI, a global infrastructure strategy of the CCP.
“There are potential risks in terms of local economy and corruption under the BRI to nations that are part of the Chinese initiative. BRI does not care about labour or environment or transparency standards. BRI does not value law or society that Law and Society Alliance, the event’s host, care for,” Paskal said at the event.
Citing the example of Solomon Islands, Paskal said its premier Daniel Suidani had opposed the CCP’s plans for the Pacific Ocean Island nation, refusing bribe offers from China. “In May 2021, Suidani was diagnosed with a tumor that required a costly surgery. He had no money for his treatment and China used its influence to deny him treatment in other nations in the Pacific Ocean region. Ultimately, his treatment was arranged in Taiwan with help from Indian academician Prof. M. D. Nalapat,” she said.
CCP, Paskal said, infects the economic, political and judicial structures of nations that join the BRI and subsequently takes over the capital investments and economic independence of the nations that have joined BRI. On the other hand, G7’s B3W initiative, she said, includes geopolitical content, but the business lobbyists involved in the initiative would perforce recast it to geo-economics.
Seshadri Chari, in his remarks, said BRI and B3W were incomparable, but the strategic affairs community have unwittingly started comparing the two. He explained it by noting that G7 nations cumulatively are a $34-trillion GDP economy with an average per capita GDP of $43000, whereas China is a $15-trillion GDP economy with an average per capita GDP of $11000. G7 nations have a population of 775 million, and China has a population of 1.45 billion, he said.
Seshadri Chari also pointed out that in 1946, Mao Zedong had observed that a time will come when both the United States and the then USSR would lose their dominant status as a global power and that there would be an Intermediate Zone when Communist China would rise to become a global power. He said G7 nations would be spending up to $40 trillion under the B3W Initiative to operate in democratic nations only in the regions from Carribeans to Indo-Pacific, yet it has to start fresh. China, on the other hand, has already committed to $4.2 trillion covering 1,600 projects, be it in a Capitalist or a Socialist or a Communist nation across the globe in nearly 160 countries.
“The funds for B3W would be sourced from private enterprises, as there are massive profits in infrastructure projects. On the other hand, funds for BRI are sourced from China’s own sources, Asian Development Bank, World Bank and International agencies.” On China’s objectives, Seshadri Chari noted that BRI is not an economic, global, development, multilateral project, but a unilateral project proposed and signed by China. “The strategic outlook of BRI is to take over as many projects as possible, so that China becomes the leader of the new world order. The objectives of G7 nations for its B3W initiative are not yet spelled out.”
While B3W would focus on working with democratic nations with several conditions including against child labor, transparency, democracy, and adhering to the rules of the United Nations, BRI does not have such condition. “China takes its BRI to all nations, be it a dictatorship or military rule or socialist or capitalist.” The two experts shared the view that India was the only nation to know about the dangers posed by China to global peace and world order. “India should step up and take over the development projects.” Among the suggestions were for India to strengthen the BIMSTEC and ASEAN institutions, and lead the Indo-Pacific Development Initiative.