Chinese BRI and US-led B3W
IN 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping formally unveiled his dream worldwide project; BRI premised on a win-win formula economically for all who choose to join it with no template to secure political gain.
It was not only global in scope, being mammoth in outlay and far and wide in reach but also unique in its approach, free of political orientation and duress, rare in occurrence, irresistible in charm/returns and diverse, multilateral and giant in its effects.
It is fundamentally a development and investment initiative in construction, transport, energy, aviation and telecommunication sectors and attracted investments roughly to the tune of $3.7 trillion across the countries/continents involving 139 countries.
As anticipated, though belatedly, it has finally encountered a stumbling block or a counterweight led by the US with G-7 countries on its back; B3W — Build Back Better World.
It is an official challenger to Chinese BRI and expected to catalyse hundreds of billions of dollars for infrastructure investment for low/middle income countries across the globe with more emphasises on environment and climate, labour safeguards, transparency and anti-corruption.
Its estimates are being talked about in terms of need of investment related to developing countries in infrastructure which exceeds $39 trillion.
Notwithstanding aversion of China, an enterprise of stunning proportion as of BRI, is bound to arm China with an awesome ability to leverage its influence across the globe as well as erode the ascendency/mastery of the US and the West in more ways than one. China is eating our lunch, said Joe Biden without mincing his words.
At the recent Summit of G-7 countries, he emphatically called upon all participants to join hands to fend off the challenge of China and managed to have countenance of all G-7 countries over the B3W project to out general China in the realm of BRI.
A comparison of both may make relevant study for developing countries or for seriously affected countries collaterally or otherwise as a result of fierce tug and pull between the two.
Pakistan also falls in the latter category. On one side, if CPEC, being the flagship project of BRI, holds plenty of roses, then, on other side, it also embodies a range of thorns.
One of the cornerstones of BRI which China kept was its non-confrontational approach to pursue it. In concept, it is laudable but in realpolitik, it is faulty and impractical. It is not built on lofty ideals of puritans.
It is moved by titans impregnated with animal instincts until met with a compatible or superior force.
Man has to fight it out even more for a right cause because it threatens the existence of evil forces and they come together harder to save their thrones and turfs.
Driven by said motivation, probably China has not kept enough number of contingencies or variety therein to deal with such a situation.
To the contrary, the US would deal China with a mix of coercion, intimidation, incentives and competitiveness.
Being still largest economy of the world with a robust scientific technological base and a purse full of affluence of G-7 countries coupled with enough number of arrows and slings in its arsenal, US could exert pulls to persuade or dissuade targeted developing countries to abandon bandwagon of China and hitch their wagons with its caravan.
It has ingress in the state apparatus of developing countries to the extent of regime change.
It has effective sway over world financial institutions and international watchdogs to twist their arms.
It has military presence on nodal points worldwide to oversee globally bound cargo ships or trucks.
Reportedly, its leverage is at work to entice Russia to stand aside and watch its deal with China from afar.
It has countries like Japan on its orbit which could go many steps ahead in antipathy of China. Contrarily, China seems bereft of such a company.
The altruism and amiability were hallmarks of BRI. Undoubtedly, it was a rare stuff and capable of outstripping imperialism of the US and the West which is their enduring legacy, however, these lost their way considerably at implementation in a number of countries.
Now there exist varying degree of reservations about cost, risk of debt stress, transparency, jobs and use of local raw material/resources.
The US has already started using misgivings arising out of these issues to discredit China in tandem with its hullabaloo on alleged unfair trading practices, intellectual theft and violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms by China.
It is needless to mention that international media is on its beck and call and Chinese media pales in comparison.
The combined effect of all above, could extract a heavy toll in relation to BRI while also giving way to B3W to take off appreciably. Apparently, China seems in denial mode.
It is still calling the US not to make China an imaginary enemy out of its pure economic pursuits.
Their path is of economics only, not of confrontation however, there is no reason to disbelieve that deep-down, they are not contemplating how to counter aggressiveness of US aimed at scuttling the BRI.
They have to revert back to altruism in true letter and in spirit if they have to do it successfully.
They need to show largesse in dealing with developing countries economically. Possibly it is an imperative in order to have them enough incentives in accompanying them in the face of pressure, mounted by the US and its allies.
More importantly, at international stage, they have to garner political influence and station its enough military presence at nodal/choke points worldwide to back their deed by force.
A big deed as of BRI is laughed at, ridiculed and eventually, forced to exit if not backed by force.
— The writer, a retired Lt Col, is a senior columnist based in Islamabad.