Zoom webinar | Jennifer Hillman, Jacob J. Lew, Gary Roughead, David Sacks
According to a recent report published by the Council on Foreign Relations, China’s Belt and Road: Implications for the United States, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy undertaking and the world’s largest infrastructure program, poses a significant challenge to U.S. economic, political, climate change, security, and global health interests. The United States has a clear interest in adopting a strategy that both pressures China to alter its BRI practices and provides an effective alternative to BRI, promoting sustainable infrastructure, upholding high environmental and anticorruption standards, ensuring U.S. companies can operate on a level playing field, and assisting countries in preserving political independence.
On May 4, 2021, the National Committee hosted a virtual program with report co-chairs Jacob Lew and Gary Roughead and co-authors Jennifer Hillman and David Sacks, as they discussed recommendations for an effective United States response to BRI.
Below are the key takeaways from the discussion.
The report found that the overall risks associated with BRI outweigh its benefits, including the threat to global macroeconomic stability, displacing non-Chinese businesses from participating in fair trade, locking countries into Chinese technology and technology standards, and increasing carbon emissions.
Although modern container ports may not directly support navy operations, they are used to flow logistics and generate data used in market and operational analysis. China’s increasing control over global ports may thwart the ports’ ability to support U.S. operations during times of crisis.
After COVID-19, BRI pivoted from infrastructure to technology, with a particular focus on telecommunications and financial technologies. This is concerning for the United States as it hinders U.S. ability to compete in the market if international technology standards are set by China.
Contrary to the Trump administration’s framing of BRI as a Trojan horse to advance China’s geostrategic agenda, this report is largely focused on the economic aspects of BRI and provides recommendations on how the United States can draw on its strengths to compete with China.
To keep China accountable, the United States should work with allies to insist that China be more transparent, conduct pre-project environmental assessments, develop international standards on what constitutes a green investment, and offer alternatives to countries in need of foreign investment.