In-person diplomacy is back . . .
Last weekend, the leaders of the world’s seven wealthiest democracies met in England for the G7 summit, marking the first in-person G7 meeting in more than two years. On Saturday, the leaders announced the ‘Build Back Better World’ (B3W) plan – an infrastructure plan meant to rival China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI is an infrastructure development strategy implemented in 2013. More than 100 countries have signed agreements with China to implement BRI projects such as roads, railways, and ports. However, Western countries, especially the U.S., have harshly critiqued the BRI as a way for China to expand its global power and influence.
Implications of the G7 infrastructure plan . . .
The G7 leaders want the B3W to be a transparent alternative to the BRI – another way to narrow the US$40-trillion infrastructure gap that low- and middle-income nations face. A White House briefing stated the B3W aims to mobilize private-sector capital “in four areas of focus – climate, health and health security, digital technology, and gender equity and equality.” A Biden administration official stated that the plan is meant to be “a positive alternative that reflects our values, our standards and our way of doing business.” Details on how the plan will work, including its budget, have yet to be released.
A ‘tough-on-China’ narrative for some, but not for others . . .
A key theme for this year’s G7 summit was how to respond to China’s growing influence. The U.S. adopted a notably “tough on China” stance, which it repeated at the NATO summit right after the G7. However, European leaders seem to be more hesitant to support a harsh stance on China. French President Emmanuel Macron said that the G7 wants to work with China despite disagreements and explicitly stated that “the G7 is not a club hostile to China.” After the G7 summit, however, Canada and the EU agreed to collaborate on critical minerals supply chains to diversify from “less like-minded producers” such as China. Overall, it seems that there is little consensus among the G7 members when it comes to China.