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Time Will Tell

Source: Science and Technology Daily | 2022-07-07 09:41:33 | Author: QI Liming

Chinese and Indonesian builders work near the 4th girder yard of the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway in Indonesia on May 1, 2022. The railway is a landmark project of the Belt and Road Initiative and practical cooperation between China and Indonesia. It is 142 kilometers long. Once completed, the travel time between Jakarta and Bandung will be reduced from more than three hours to 40 minutes. (PHOTO: XINHUA)

By QI Liming

U.S. President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders relaunched the initiative to address the infrastructure gap in the developing world, newly renamed "Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment," at their annual gathering this June in Germany.

Among the G7's 600 billion USD initiative, Biden also announced that the U.S. will mobilize 200 billion USD of investment in global infrastructure projects under its new strategy, in the next five years.

Some media and critics have inferred that Biden's move is aimed to counter the influence of China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Don't make infrastructure plans geopolitical

According to CNBC, Choi Shing Kwok, CEO of Singapore-based research institute ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, said, "It is questionable whether at this stage the scale [of the G7 initiative] can match that of the BRI, but that is something to be seen later."

In the past decade or so, China has signed more than 170 BRI cooperation agreements with 125 countries and 29 international organizations across Asia and Europe, as well as Africa, and Latin America.

Nearly 800 billion USD in investments has been undertaken within the BRI, surpassing the investments currently pledged by the G7. Trillions more dollars are expected to be invested through China's infrastructure project into the network comprising six development corridors.

"In the end, if the implementation [of the G7 initiative] is done in such a way that it does not force countries to factor in geopolitics, then it will be acceptable," said Choi.

BRI and B3W enjoy complementary

At the G7 summit in 2021, the U.S. had already launched a plan. It was called Build Back Better World (B3W), which promised to improve the 40 trillion USD infrastructure of developing countries.

China is willing to work with the U.S. on a G7-led global infrastructure plan and welcomes Washington to join the BRI, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in February this year.

Actually, according toThe Diplomat, the BRI and B3W are in many ways inherently complementary. The BRI could provide a number of instructive lessons for B3W planners.

In fact, it is not hard to argue that in order to build back a better world following the COVID-19 pandemic, the BRI and B3W should work together. To begin with, the BRI and B3W could be complementary in their sectoral focus and financing mechanisms.

China's BRI is primarily focused on traditional hard infrastructure. Over the past two decades, China has accumulated rich experience in building infrastructure overseas, either by constructing contracted projects or through foreign aid, and has a comparative advantage in cost and project's completion time.

In comparison, the B3W focuses on "softer" outcomes, namely improvements in climate, health and health security, modernized digital technology, and gender equity and equality.

China has repeatedly emphasized the open and inclusive nature of the BRI, and already expresses its willingness to collaborate with the B3W, which aligns with the BRI's principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits.

Far away from taking sides

According to a previous G20 report, there will be a 15 trillion USD investment gap in global infrastructure by 2040.

Infrastructure development, as a major lever for promoting the overall progress of humankind, enjoys unparalleled space for development.

In addition to the U.S., Europe will mobilize 300 billion euros from private and public funds in more than five years, to fund infrastructure of developing countries as part of the G7's drive to "counter" China's BRI, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said at this year's G7.

Some netizens questioned that why can't using "supplement" instead of "replace". Few developing countries want to be in a position where they must take sides.

Riedel Research Group founder David Riedel said it did not matter who the investors were, and that outcomes would not be apparent overnight.

It doesn't mean much near term, but a longer term, investors need to appreciate the importance of investments made for infrastructure, said Riedel.

Editor: 汤哲枭

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