This article originally published at https://www.voachinese.com/a/beat-china-at-its-own-game-will-us-belt-and-road-work-20210224/5792031.html on June 3, 2021.
WASHINGTON — The former U.S. Secretary of the Navy and former Senator Jim Webb recently issued an article in which he put forward an interesting proposal in which he called on the Biden administration to launch the “American version of the Belt and Road Initiative” to counter China’s influence in the world. Weber believes that the United States can do better than China. This proposal has sparked a lot of debate. Some scholars believe that the United States encourages free competition and that the “Belt and Road” initiative is not the way the United States does things.
Weber published an article in the Wall Street Journal on February 17 advising the Biden administration to consider launching the “US version of the Belt and Road.” “China invests in large-scale infrastructure projects all over the world to increase its influence, and the United States can do the same,” he said.
Weber pointed out that as an important part of China’s global strategy for hegemony, the Chinese government has established economic and diplomatic ties with developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America through the “One Belt, One Road” project, and conducted military infiltration on the grounds of protecting the interests of these projects. However, public discussions in the United States have not paid enough attention to this.
Weber believes that the Chinese government’s escalating military, diplomatic provocations and human rights persecution in recent years have made many developing countries hesitate to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative. He called on the Biden administration to seize this opportunity and begin to attach importance to the “often neglected countries” in U.S. foreign policy, and to give these regions the opportunity to choose the U.S. in order to counter China’s influence and prevent the world system from being coerced by authoritarianism. This is conducive to the “diplomatic and economic health” of the United States.
“This is not a doomed career, but an unrecognized opportunity,” Weber said.
Weber proposed that the Biden administration implement a comprehensive and coordinated policy in Asia, Africa and Latin America, integrating thoughtful diplomacy, security commitments, and project investment and participation by the American business community to fill the vacuum.
Weber also believes that the United States can do better than China. “The U.S.’s major investment in this—without colonial motives and based on a more credible and more time-tested business model—will forcefully start developing economies, and at the same time boost the U.S. economy, and inspire further progress in a global free society. Pre-development,” Weber said.
The United States encourages free competition, “One Belt One Road” is not our way of doing things
As soon as the article came out, supporters called Weber a “visionary pragmatist”, and the United States urgently needed to implement it, and it was not too late. Jose Manuel, a student of international relations at King Juan Carlos University in Spain, said on Twitter: “If the United States wants to prevent China from winning the title of world superpower, it will be able to retaliate and support the Asian and African countries. Investment projects in Latin America.”
However, American liberal economists urged that the United States should not follow China in its competition with China.
Tony Nash, founder of the data analysis company Complete Intelligence, told VOA: “The Belt and Road Initiative or the Made in China 2025, this is not an American way of doing things.”
Nash believes that the best way for the United States to deal with competition among major powers is to encourage free competition. The United States’ world influence should come from an international system that advocates transparency and free competition.
On February 23, John Tamny, editor of RealClearMarkets, a US economic news website, pointed out that “the influence of the United States is freedom.” He believes that projects such as the “Belt and Road” highly dependent on government regulation will only waste huge amounts of resources. , And damage the United States’ world image of advocating free competition.
In an interview with VOA, Michael Kugelman, director of Asian projects at the Wilson Center in Washington think tank, said that the United States’ number one strategic competitor, China, is exerting its influence on a global scale through the Belt and Road Initiative. It is true that the United States has increased its investment in overseas infrastructure projects. There is strategic value, but now is not the time. Currently, the focus of the Biden administration is to revitalize the US economy.
However, Joyce Mao, a professor of history at Middlebury College in Vermont and an expert on U.S.-Asia relations, supports the United States’ overseas infrastructure investment. She told the Voice of America that the US foreign policy that integrates mature diplomacy and strategic intervention is inseparable from the domestic development of the United States. But she also pointed out that it is a challenge to obtain sufficient American public support and bipartisan consensus on this point.
Whether the proposal can be supported by the American public
Henry Blodget, the founder of the news website Business Insider, said on Twitter: “Good idea, but the United States has not yet reached an agreement on investment in domestic infrastructure.” Independent media “Chinese “Non-projects” also said on Twitter: “U.S. taxpayers’ own roads, bridges, and airports are in a state of disrepair. It is hard to imagine that they will support huge investments in infrastructure construction in developing countries to compete with China.”
Nash of Complete Intelligence believes that the American public cannot accept spending trillions of dollars on overseas projects right now. Under the impact of the epidemic, there are too many places to spend money in the United States. If the US government spends money and energy on this knot to form a global infrastructure investment plan, it will certainly make many taxpayers angry.
Kugelman of the Wilson Center said that the top priority of the Biden administration is obviously to restart the motor of the US domestic economy. Investment in overseas infrastructure is a strategic issue worth considering in the future, but at least it will have to wait a few more months. “If you do this at the same time, Two things become a situation where you have to keep the cake and eat the cake,” Kugelman said.
“People who are struggling in the’rust zone’ due to industrial decline will not have a good response if they hear that their government will launch such a huge plan to develop infrastructure projects thousands of miles away,” Kugelman said.
Professor Mao of Mingde College said that Weber’s proposal while the U.S. economy is still trapped by the epidemic is worthy of scrutiny. She pointed out that there are many debates about where the health and well-being of the American economy come from. This has always been a classic political issue that has divided opinions between conservatives and liberals in the United States. At this special moment of the epidemic, this disagreement focuses on what kind of economic plan is the one that will enable the United States to recover from the epidemic.
Weber said in the article that US investment in infrastructure projects in developing countries not only helps to counter China, but also benefits the US economy. But Professor Mao pointed out that Weber’s proposal seems to “assume that most Americans can understand and agree that the future of the US economy depends on the existence of internationalism and interventionism”, but the reality is not the case. She said that although there is a lot of political support in the United States, especially within the Republican conservatives, in the fight against China, investing in large-scale overseas infrastructure projects may not be consistent with their political priorities.
“What benefits will the U.S. version of the Belt and Road Initiative bring to ordinary U.S. citizens? How will employment opportunities be realized? To what extent can it help develop overseas markets and other resources for U.S. goods?” Professor Mao believes that this proposal is necessary Get enough support. These are the basic questions that need to be answered to the American public and policymakers.
Kugelman: There are ready-made investment frameworks available
Kugelman pointed out that although a large-scale plan such as the “US version of the Belt and Road” should first give way to the restoration of the domestic economy, Biden’s policy can make good use of the relevant institutions and tools that have been established during the Trump administration to implement Related investment commitments.
In 2018, Trump signed the “Good Use of Investment Guidance and Development Act” (referred to as the BUILD Act), which merged the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Development Credit Administration (DCA) under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to form a new establishment The United States International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) was established to enhance the United States’ international development financing capabilities, and expanded financing and financing tools to coordinate and promote the participation of the U.S. private sector in the economic construction of developing countries.
Under the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Policy”, the Trump administration signed a memorandum of cooperation on a trilateral infrastructure investment partnership with Japan and Australia in 2018 to jointly encourage and support domestic private companies to build high-tech projects in the Indo-Pacific region that meet international standards. Quality infrastructure construction project.
In 2019, the United States, Japan and Australia jointly launched the Blue Dot Network (Blue Dot Network) to counter China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative in Asia. The plan unites the government, enterprises and civil society to evaluate and certify infrastructure projects under “common standards” to promote high-quality projects for sustainable development.
David Dollar and Jonathan Stromseth, fellows of the Brookings Institution’s China Program, also called on the Biden administration to implement a series of infrastructure investment commitments in Southeast Asia during the Trump administration. They pointed out that nearly 42,000 U.S. companies export products to 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), supporting approximately 600,000 jobs in the U.S. However, the U.S.’s economic position in the region is facing the erosion of China, and Southeast Asia has become Beijing. A hotbed of strategic competition with Washington.
Nash: Government-supported projects shouldn’t be a way of American competition
Nash, who had provided consulting and assistance to China’s National Development and Reform Commission on the “Belt and Road” project, told VOA that China’s “Belt and Road” operation principle is to transfer funds from banks that carry out overseas business in China to China, which invests in infrastructure projects around the world. Among state-owned and semi-state-owned entities, it is a way of financing overseas and domestic debt. Although the United States also has international financing institutions such as the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC), its scale of operation is unlikely to support large overseas investment projects such as China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. In addition, China can provide loans with negative interest rates for certain projects, but US financial institutions that have always focused on risk management standards are unlikely to do so.
Nash also said that the best way for the United States to compete among major powers is to compete freely. Whether it is China’s “One Belt, One Road” or “Made in China 2025” industrial policy, it should not be the way the United States follows. These projects are highly dependent on the role of the government, and the government has invested heavily to support the technology industry or support domestic companies to invest in overseas projects. Doing so may nourish a group of companies and industries whose actual competitiveness is not up to the standard.
“The best way is to let American construction companies and infrastructure companies go out to compete for projects. If they can’t compete, then they should fail because they are not competitive enough,” Nash said.
At a seminar last month, Clyde Prestowitz, a well-known American expert on globalization and Asian issues and director of the Institute for Economic Strategy, said that the Biden administration should have a far-reaching industrial policy. “China has their Made in China 2025, and we should have our Made in America 2025,” he said.
Nash believes that the way for the United States and China to maintain influence and leadership on a global scale is to uphold the values of transparency and free competition. He believes that the United States previously required NATO allies to be open and transparent in defense spending as a manifestation of leadership.
He believes that the United States should also continue to pursue transparency against government subsidies and non-tariff barriers, so as to ensure that the World Trade Organization can effectively perform inspections in this area, so that the world can see how the industries of various countries are protected. of. At the same time, the United States should also call on the international community to pursue transparency in foreign aid. Where does the money go?
“The United States has come forward to demand transparency in multilateral organizations, transparency in foreign aid, and a free competition environment for international bidding for infrastructure projects. This is the best way for the United States to demonstrate and maintain leadership,” Nash said.
How to do the “US version of the Belt and Road Initiative”?
Kugelman believes that the United States is still gaining the upper hand in the competition between the United States and China, whether it is military strength or a leading advantage in high-tech fields. Like Weber, he also believes that although the United States has faced some setbacks in soft power in recent years, it is still ahead of China.
Kugelman therefore emphasized that the United States should have its own pace and expectations in terms of overseas infrastructure investment, and there is no need to equalize with China in the order of magnitude. After all, China has already led too many steps in this area. “With some progress in the field of infrastructure investment, instead of investing heavily in this to catch up with China in vain, why not focus more on maintaining the United States’ competitive advantage and comparative advantage in its traditionally leading field?” Kugelman said.
Kugelman partially agrees with Weber’s view that the United States can do better in infrastructure investment. He said that the quality of many of China’s Belt and Road projects has been criticized, such as financial opacity, the breeding of corruption, damage to the local environment, and the substandard rights of workers. The United States can provide a higher standard and high-quality options for these issues. China has built surveillance systems through infrastructure projects in some areas to export authoritarianism. The United States obviously can also provide less intrusive options in this regard.
Like Weber, Kugelman also believes that China’s “wolf war diplomacy” in recent years has opened up opportunities for the United States. Kugelman cited, for example, that China’s aggressive strategy of flexing muscles in the South China Sea has sounded the alarm for many countries in the region, and began to question whether the consistent attitude of “asking the United States for security and asking China for money” should continue. He believes that the United States should focus on investing in countries like the Philippines that hesitate to China and are a key regional ally of the United States.
数据分析公司Complete Intelligence创始人托尼·纳什(Tony Nash) 告诉美国之音：“‘一带一路’或‘中国制造2025’，这不是美国式的做事方式。”
不过，美国佛蒙特州明德学院(Middlebury College)历史系教授、美亚关系专家乔伊斯·毛(Joyce Mao)支持美国的海外基建投资。她对美国之音表示，融合成熟外交和策略性干预的美国对外政策和美国国内的发展密不可分。但她也指出，要在这一点上获得足够的美国公众支持和两党共识是个挑战。
新闻网站商业内幕(Business Insider)的创始人亨利·布拉吉(Henry Blodget)在推特上说：“好主意，但美国都还没能在投资国内基础设施上达成一致。” 独立媒体“中非项目”也在推特上称：“美国纳税人自己的道路、桥梁和机场处于年久失修状态，很难想象他们会支持巨额投资发展中国家的基础设施建设以与中国竞争。”
2019年，美国与日本和澳大利亚共同推出蓝点计划(Blue Dot Network)，在亚洲地区抗衡中国的“一带一路”。该计划联合政府、企业和民间社会，在“共同标准下”评鉴和认证基建项目，助推可持续发展的高质量项目。
布鲁金斯学会中国项目研究员杜大伟(David Dollar)和周思哲(Jonathan Stromseth)也在2月17日呼吁拜登政府将特朗普政府期间一系列针对东南亚地区的基建投资承诺落实。他们指出，近4.2万家美国公司向东南亚国家联盟(ASEAN)10个成员国出口产品，支持美国约60万个就业机会，但美国在该区域的经济地位正面临中国的蚕食，东南亚已成为北京和华盛顿之间战略竞争的温床。
在上个月一场研讨会上，美国知名全球化和亚洲问题专家、经济战略研究所所长普雷斯托维茨(Clyde Prestowitz)曾表示，拜登政府该有一个影响深远的产业政策。“中国有他们的中国制造2025，我们应该有我们的美国制造2025，” 他说。