"The Starting Gun Has Gone Off"

G7 Summit adopts new measures against China. USA sees itself " in a competition to win the 21st century" and reinforces cooperation - also military - with allies.

BERLIN/WASHINGTON/BEIJING (Own report) - The leading western industrial countries want to compete with China's New Silk Road with a new infrastructure initiative spanning the globe. The project agreed on at their G7 summit meeting, which ended yesterday, bears the motto "Build Back Better World" ("B3W"). It is intended to mobilize over the next few years "hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment" in developing countries. Of course, the funding is completely uncertain. Over the years, similar ambitious initiatives launched by the EU, as well as by Japan and India, intended to undermine the New Silk Road have remained unsuccessful. The current G7 initiative is part of a broad-based offensive launched against China by the United States, one that includes a gigantic high-tech funding program and military measures with a strengthening of allied cooperation. US President Joe Biden stated: "We are in a competition with China to win the 21st century, and the starting gun has gone off."

The "European Way"

Back in September 2018, in an attempt to counter China's New Silk Road (Belt and Road Initiative, BRI), the EU had already launched its own infrastructure program spanning Europe and Asia - the "EU-Asia-Connectivity Strategy." The project's objectives were divided in three "building blocks": first, the expansion of transport, energy, and digital networks between the continents, secondly, the initiation of special "connectivity partnerships" with individual countries and thirdly, the creation of new financing instruments for the realization of potential projects. In open contrast to China, the declared aim was to follow a "European path." "Connectivity" must be expanded "sustainably," "rules-based" and "comprehensively."[1] Around two and a half years later, in March 2021, the German government's foreign trade and investment agency, Germany Trade and Invest (gtai) stated that "the implementation" of the project remained "sluggish": "Until now, ... no significant success could be achieved in any of the three dimensions."[2] Berlin is pushing for progress. Back in June 2020, the German ministries of foreign policy, economics and transport wrote a letter to EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell calling for energetic measures for the realization of the plans.[3] However, their effort fizzled out.

The Asian Alternative

Japan and India had even earlier sought to implement plans for an alternative to the New Silk Road. On May 23, 2017, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the founding of the Indian-Japanese "Asia-Africa Growth Corridor" (AAGC) - only a few days after the first major Silk Road Summit Forum in Beijing.[4] The objective of the AAGC is the promotion of the development of the infrastructure in Asia, but also between Asia and Africa, and to link this with various sorts of development and cooperation projects. The project is based on solidly anchored relationships: India can build on its contacts to a whole range of African countries, some to the Indian diaspora communities in various countries in Africa,[5] others stemming from the "non-aligned" movement cooperation during the cold war. Japanese companies, on the other hand, often used their sites in India for exporting to the African continent. Despite AAGC's favorable conditions, in principle, a study of the project published last October, found that after three years, "there is no outstanding achievement," and, miles away from becoming an alternative to the New Silk Road, the initiative has almost been forgotten.[6]

"Right Now Just a Dream"

The leading western industrialized countries (G7) decided at their summit meeting, which ended yesterday, to launch the next attempt. Under the motto "Build Back Better World" ("B3W"), which echoes campaign slogans of both the British government and US President Joe Biden, infrastructure projects in poorer countries will be funded in the future. The initiative is "values-driven, high-standard, and transparent," according to the final statement, an obvious attempt to positively distinguish this project from the New Silk Road - usually negatively described in the West.[7] "B3W will collectively catalyze hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment for low- and middle-income countries in the coming years," the statement continues. "It will be global in scope, from Latin America and the Caribbean to Africa to the Indo-Pacific. Contrary to assumptions derived from the lofty terminology, the financing, of course, is totally uncertain. It is scheduled to be discussed in a working group, as was explained yesterday at the G7 summit. An example of skeptical voices being raised outside the West, Al Jazeera (Qatar) noted that B3W - eight years after the launching of the New Silk Road - is "very late," and is "just a dream."[8]

"The Days under Our Direction"

Although key questions remain unanswered, the B3W is a component of a broader Biden administration offensive to halt China's rise. Biden is not only continuing to pursue, virtually unchanged, his predecessor Donald Trump's punitive tariffs and sanctions policies, but is supplementing them with additional initiatives. Last week, for example, the Senate adopted a US $250 billion investment package with the aim of specifically financing the development of key high-tech branches - such as semiconductors, telecommunications, artificial intelligence - to catch up to China's current selective leads and to achieve a US global technological leadership. "We don’t want America to be a mediocre nation this century," said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, "we don’t want these days to end under our direction.[9] If Washington doesn’t do anything, "our days as the dominant superpower may be numbered." In reference to the investment package, President Biden said "We are in a competition with China to win the 21st century, and the starting gun has gone off."[10]

Optimizing the Armed Forces

Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin announced additional measures last week: the implementation of recommendations developed by the "China Task Force" he appointed in February. These are aimed at comprehensively reorienting the US Armed Forces - which previously have been focused primarily on counterinsurgency warfare in Afghanistan and Iraq - on the power struggle against China. This had been announced by the Trump Administration, however not implemented, explains Austin. The measures, whose details are being kept secret, are also aimed at "streamlining and strengthening" cooperation with US allies, for example in the development of "new operational concepts" and future force posture.[11] As a close ally of the United States, this also applies to Germany - an element taking on special significance, due to the fact that the US military is more openly discussing a future war against China. german-foreign-policy.com will soon report.


[1] See also Die Anti-Seidenstraße.

[2] Sebastian Holz: Was ist die EU-Asien-Konnektivitätsstrategie? gtai.de 18.03.2021.

[3] Sebastian Holz: EU-Konnektivitätsstrategie: Neuer Anlauf zur Umsetzung 2021. gtai.de 18.03.2021.

[4] See also China's Project of the Century.

[5] Since the late 19th Century British companies recruited cheap Indian personnel to work in British colonies. In many cases, the descendents of these low-salaried Indian laborers are still living in these countries today.

[6] Takuya Taniguchi: Should We Forget about the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor? Institut français des relations internationales (ifri): Lettre du Centre Asie, No. 87, October 19, 2020.

[7] G7 wollen die Neue Seidenstraße übertrumpfen. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 14.06.2021.

[8] G7 leaders attempt to rival China with infrastructure project. aljazeera.com 12.06.2021.

[9] Senat stimmt für Milliardenpaket im Wettbewerb mit China. sueddeutsche.de 09.06.2021.

[10] Amerika rüstet sich für Konkurrenz mit China. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 10.06.2021.

[11] Jim Garamone: Austin Signs Internal Directive to Unify Department's China Efforts. defense.gov 09.06.2021.