China’s initiatives bring concrete benefits to the world
By Ezzat Saad
It is only natural that China’s rise as the second-largest economy and the world’s leading trading power has prompted both developed and developing countries to deepen economic cooperation and trade exchanges with China and work with it to address many international issues.
It is also natural that China’s influence in fields such as global economic governance, nuclear non-proliferation, and climate change mitigation will increase, given its initiatives including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Belt and Road Initiative, the Global Development Initiative and the Global Security Initiative.
Due to these developments, the United States cannot accept China’s rise. The US even sees China as an adversary and a challenge to its global dominance.
The US’ rivalry with China has created a major dilemma for other countries. While China does not seek to impose its development model or system of governance on other countries, the US exerts huge pressure on other countries to reduce cooperation or stop cooperating with China, especially in fields which Washington believes are particularly sensitive such as advanced technology, digitalization, military cooperation and artificial intelligence.
The US questions China’s development cooperation with and aid to countries in need, claiming Beijing only safeguards its own interests and has been pushing other countries into a “debt trap”.
The fact is that economic, financial, infrastructure development and capacity-building cooperation, along with investment cooperation, are important components of the platforms established by China as frameworks for cooperation with various regional forums and programs such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, the China-Arab Cooperation Forum and the China-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Cooperation Plan.
In fact, the G7 has been trying to replicate the Belt and Road Initiative but without much success. For example, at the G7 Summit in Cornwall, the United Kingdom, in June 2021, US President Joe Biden unveiled the “Build Back Better World” (B3W) initiative, claiming it would help “meet the enormous infrastructure needs of low- and middle-income countries” with particular focus on addressing climate, digital infrastructure, gender equality and health issues.
At this year’s G7 Summit in Bavaria, Germany, in June, the launch of another initiative, “Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment”, was in reality the re-launch of the B3W plan, although the US pledged to provide $200 billion of the required $600 billion. Most experts, including Western experts, say the aim of such G7 initiatives is to counter China’s initiatives without suggesting alternative ways of promoting global economic development.
In this context, the financing that Western governments have promised to provide for such initiatives will further complicate their economic situation which has already received serious blows due to rising inflation and increasing food and energy prices. Plus, unlike Chinese enterprises, private sector companies in G7 countries may be reluctant to invest in “unstable” developing countries. Needless to say, China sees the issue differently because it believes the solution to all the problems facing developing countries in Africa, as well as Latin America and Asia, lies in sustainable development.
That’s why China has been using the Belt and Road Initiative as a platform to develop and/or improve regional infrastructure and improve connectivity, in a bid to maintain global peace and development. China knows that investing in infrastructure is investing in a country’s economic development. As such, China is working to help build a community with a shared future for mankind based on broad consultation, joint contribution and benefit-sharing.
In this regard, Western initiatives are not just too late but also have little to offer.
Contrary to the US’ approach, China views its economic rise as a strategic opportunity to improve the world order by making it equitable and fairer, and to strengthen global governance.
Undoubtedly, the establishment of new global financial institutions such as the AIIB and the BRICS New Development Bank has had a huge impact on global economic governance and key decision-making, because such institutions, unlike the Bretton Woods institutions, are built based on equality of all partner countries regardless of their economic strength.
Moreover, traditional international development banks don’t have the capacity to meet the growing demand for investment in infrastructure projects, especially from developing countries, which experts say could be anywhere between $1 trillion and $2.3 trillion.
More important, the New Development Bank has opened its doors to countries that are not members of BRICS, with four countries (Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay and Bangladesh) currently serving as members of the NDB.
Furthermore, the Global Development Initiative proposal — by President Xi Jinping on Sept 21, 2021 — comes at a time when the world is facing multiple crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic and global economic slowdown, which have dealt serious economic blows to developing countries and emerging markets, especially in Africa.
The GDI synergizes with other initiatives such as the African Union’s Agenda 2063, the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative, all of which uphold multilateralism. This makes the GDI a call to the international community to refocus its efforts to realize the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to ensure that global development is inclusive and eco-friendly.
The author is executive director of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.