The China Factor in G7’s ‘Green Belt and Road’ Strategy

Neeraj Singh Manhas
3rd July 2021

Picture Courtesy: Reuters

The Group of Seven (G7) leaders agreed on 11 June 2021 to set a new infrastructure investment plan aimed at countering China’s Belt and Road programme’s impact in developing countries. China’s growing influence in developing nations throughout the Indo-Pacific and Africa has alarmed the group of developed democracies, and US and UK leaders hinted at launching the Build Back Better World (B3W) alliance before the G7 summit. The White House released a fact sheet outlining the new framework that was agreed upon on the second day of the G-7 summit in Cornwall, which was hosted by the United Kingdom. This article highlights the main initiatives, which were taken to counter China’s Global expansion policy.

According to the Nikkei Asia, the discussion addressed strategic competition with China. The G7 programme is defined as a “values-driven, transparent, and high-standard infrastructure collaboration spearheaded by the world’s leading democracies.” The G-7 nations are trying to position their effort as a more transparent and sustainable option for developing countries that is consistent with their democratic principles and norms. Prior to the announcement, a senior US administration official stated that “the US and many of our partners and friends around the world have long been sceptical of China’s Belt and Road initiative,” citing “a lack of transparency, lax environmental and labour standards, and a strategy that has left many countries worse off.” The programme intends to generate private sector money through “catalytic investment” from the G-7’s development finance institutions. The initiative’s key areas will include climate change, health and health security, digital technologies, and gender equity and equality.

The United Kingdom emphasised the partnership’s environmental goals, which include accelerating the global transition to sustainability through “more, better, and quicker” infrastructure investment in poor nations. “There is a direct link between cutting emissions, restoring nature, generating employment, and guaranteeing long-term economic prosperity,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated. “As democratic states, we owe it to developing countries to assist them in reaping the advantages of clean growth through a just and transparent system. The G-7 has a once-in-a-generation chance to catalyse a global Green Industrial Revolution that has the potential to fundamentally alter the way we live “he continued.

Though the US has made direct reference to the effort in connection to China, the British prime minister’s spokeswoman stated, “This project stands on its own merits and is consistent with the G-7’s goals for ensuring the world rebuilds better and greener following the epidemic.” The spokesman emphasized that the cooperation will “offer alternative choices” and provide developing nations the option of democratically accountable funding. Climate change and the need to “rebuild greener” following the epidemic are major topics of debate in the G7. The United Kingdom views the G-7 meeting as a critical stepping stone for achieving environmental objectives at the United Nations’ COP26 Summit, which the United Kingdom is also hosting in Glasgow during 31 October – 12 November 2021. The British government stated that the project will be expanded in the run-up to the November climate conference.

The G-7 has been unable to unify its response to China, and successive summits involving former US President Donald Trump have failed to portray developed democracies in a unified front. The group is eager to demonstrate its unity and competence as democratic governments to address global issues at this summit, and dealing with an increasingly assertive China is expected to be a prominent topic of discussion.

While both the UK and US leaders alluded about the B3W in the run-up to the G-7 meeting, the UK and others, with the exception of the US, have so far refrained from overtly labelling the endeavor as a counter-China or rival to the Belt and Road plan. States are attempting to find a delicate balance in dealing with an assertive China that is also required as a partner in addressing global issues such as climate change.

According to the Japanese government, numerous officials made remarks about China throughout the debate.  Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga voiced severe worry over China’s unilateral moves in the East and South China seas, human rights violations, and unfair commercial practices, as well as other concerns that contradict G-7 ideals, and urged the group to coordinate its response. G7 summit is considered an attempt to maintain global leadership in the face of growing Chinese influence. Moreover, for President Biden, it is an opportunity to declare that the United States has moved on from Trump’s isolationist policies. Biden has been forthright about his desire to lead the West in limiting Russia’s and China’s influence.

The idea, known as the “green belt and road” programme, would offer cash to developing nations to reduce carbon emissions and achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal. While many G7 leaders have been careful not to label the project as anti-China, the Biden administration has been outspoken in resisting Chinese influence. The plan aims to enhance climate finance from multilateral development banks and private firms in the manner of the Marshall Plan. G7 leaders pledged to increase their contributions to climate financing to the aim of $100 billion per year.

The G7 summit at Cornwall highlighted all major issues like climate, Vaccination diplomacy, trade and initiative for rebuilding infrastructure in the developing nations. However, beside these, 70% of the talk was on developing counter strategies of China’s growing power. Therefore, all seven countries have collectively decided to help developing nations with the strategy of ‘Green Belt and Road’ initiative so counter ‘China’s Belt and Road’ initiative so that the developing nations do not fall into the debt trap of China. On the other hand, China clearly denied the existence of G7 formation and warned G7 leaders that the day when a “small” group of countries decided the fate of the world were long gone. A spokesman for the Chinese embassy in London was quoted, saying,  We always believe that countries, big or small, strong or weak, poor or rich, are equals, and that world affairs should be handled though consultation by all countries.”

 

*The author is a Research Intern at the Kalinga Institute of Indo-Pacific Studies.

 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are those of the author

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