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The circle of alternatives to China's Belt and Road initiative expands


Over the past decade, against the background of China's phenomenal economic and military growth, the attention of the whole world has shifted to Asia, especially to the Indo-Pacific region. Much of this focus has been on infrastructural needs. A 2017 Asian Development Bank (ADB) report estimates Asian infrastructure needs at between $22.6 trillion and $26 trillion by 2030. The idea that regional dominance will be won through infrastructural ties has gained momentum since the announcement of China's trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, which has only heightened the perception of global threats and competition.

To date, several initiatives have been presented to offer alternatives to BRI. Asian economies such as Japan, through the Enhanced Infrastructure Partnership (EPQI, launched in 2016) and India through Security and Growth for All (SAGAR, launched in 2020), have sought to create alternatives to, not opposition to, the One Path Initiative, realizing that they cannot alone match the huge investment capital of BRI. While the United States launched the infrastructure-focused "Asian Pivot" in 2011, it took the United States eight years to launch the infrastructure-focused Blue Dot Network (BDN). In addition, a joint US initiative with Japan and Australia has emerged, including a Quadruple Security Dialogue (Quad). Since 2015, Quad partners have already funded more than $48 billion in regional infrastructure.

Such multilateral initiatives have shown steady growth over the past five years in an attempt to potentially offset the BRI and match it financially. For example, in 2021 Western democracies have announced three major long-term plans. The Group of Seven (G7) has unveiled Build Back Better World (B3W), a "positive initiative" to provide alternatives to Chinese investment by meeting infrastructure demand for middle-income countries. The United Kingdom has launched the Clean Green Initiative - a key part of its contribution to the G7 B3W - to support sustainable infrastructure and clean technologies in developing countries with a £3 billion commitment over the next five years. In addition, a new European Union (EU) infrastructure strategy Global Gateway was launched in December.


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