The G7 rich country group agreed to put in place an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative as part of a broad campaign against Beijing covering human rights, chains of supply, support to Taiwan and requests to learn more about the origins of the Covid -19 pandemic.
However, some G7 leaders, including Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, the current G20 chairman, have urged Joe Biden not to push competition with China to the point of preventing cooperation on other vital issues such as than the climate crisis.
The EU is also pressing the United States to support a legally binding code of conduct for the South China Sea that Beijing has negotiated with regional powers.
Draghi, an Atlantacist, has distanced Italy from the near-pro-China policies of the previous Italian government led by the Five Star Movement, but argues that the G7 has a balance to succeed in challenging and cooperating with Beijing. Germany, often cautious about China, has been reluctant to specify the monetary value of any infrastructure fund, and France has emphasized a reallocation of special drawing rights from rich countries, foreign exchange reserve assets maintained by the IMF to the poorest countries as a means of easing liquidity.
US officials said Biden was pushing other G7 leaders to “take concrete action against forced labor” in China and include criticism of Beijing in their final statement. Japan also said it supported a mention of Taiwan in the final statement.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi from Cornwall on Friday to urge him to disclose more details about the Covid-19 leak from a Wuhan laboratory, a once rejected theory that is now gaining ground.
Yang told Blinken that the laboratory theory was absurd, according to the state-run China Global Television Network, and that “true multilateralism is not pseudo-multilateralism based on the interests of small circles.”
Inner-circle diplomacy is a caustic reference to the fact that the proportion of GDP generated by G7 states has declined. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the host country of the summit, however widens this circle by inviting the leaders of the principal democracies of the region Asia and the Pacific – India, Australia and South Korea – to take part in the talks in Cornwall this end. week.
Biden, in an effort to keep G7 allies on board his tough Chinese strategy and to forge new diplomatic alliances in Africa, is also trying to inject credibility into plans for a Western alternative to the initiative of the China Belt and Road, an infrastructure project launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping involving development, port, road, rail and digital projects from Asia to Africa via Europe. More than 100 countries have signed programs with China.
“It’s not just about facing or facing China,” one US official said. “But so far, we haven’t come up with a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards and the way we do business.” Officials said Build Back Better World (B3W) would be “an ambitious new global infrastructure initiative with our G7 partners” that would not only be an alternative to[China’sbeltandroadinitiative[China’sbeltandroadinitiative[l’initiativedelaceintureetdelaroutedelaChine[China’sbeltandroadinitiative
The plan would involve raising hundreds of billions of public and private funds to help close a $ 40 billion infrastructure gap in needy countries by 2035, the official said.
Chinese schemes have been criticized, often on the basis of disputed evidence, for binding developing countries in crushing debt that leaves them politically beholden to China. Some academics say there are isolated examples of a chain of debts, but the secrecy surrounding many contracts makes judgment difficult.
According to a Refinitiv database, more than 2,600 projects worth $ 3.7 billion were linked to the initiative as of mid-last year, although China’s Foreign Ministry said last June that around 20% of projects had been severely affected by Covid. -19 pandemic.
Biden touched on the idea of reviving a Trump-era plan for democratic countries to develop their own rival project with Johnson in March.
During talks at the G7, Biden also urged other leaders to make clear that they believe forced labor is an affront to human dignity and “a blatant example of unfair economic competition from China” to show that they were serious about defending human rights.
“We insist on being specific about areas like Xinjiang where forced labor takes place and where we need to express our values as the G7,” the US official said of the final statement to be released at the end of the summit on Sunday. . .
It is not clear whether the wording will be harsher than the statement by G7 foreign ministers in May which said: “We agree on the importance of tackling cases of forced labor with our own available national means, in particular. by raising awareness and providing advice and support to our business communities. We strongly support independent and unhindered access to Xinjiang to investigate the situation on the ground. “
The statement also implicitly recognized Taiwan’s independence by calling on it to participate in the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization.
James Crabtree of the Singapore-based IISS think tank praised the timing and principle of the G7 infrastructure program, but was skeptical about its implementation due to lack of details, including money and the fact that the The Trump administration had launched similar programs to no avail.
Launching half-baked programs can do more harm than good, he suggested. The United States recently relaunched the Blue Dot Network initiative, a way of presenting existing private sector infrastructure projects as an environmentally friendly and socially responsible investment.
But the Biden team with its Asian Czar, Kurt Campbell, is calling for greater administrative consistency and a willingness to cooperate with the EU and the UK to put in place a more credible scheme.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell recently said that the bloc’s development aid between 2013 and 2018 amounted to € 414 billion in grants, adding that this was broadly comparable to what the China was offering with its belt and road initiative, mainly through loans.