US President Joe Biden says he suggested to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a phone call that democratic countries should have an infrastructure plan to rival China’s Belt and Road initiative.
“I suggested we should have, essentially, a similar initiative, pulling from the democratic states, helping those communities around the world that, in fact, need help,” Biden told reporters on Friday.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure scheme launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping involving development and investment initiatives that would stretch from East Asia to Europe.
The project would significantly expand China’s economic and political influence, raising concerns in the United States and elsewhere.
Biden’s remarks came after he said on Thursday he would prevent China passing the United States to become the most powerful country in the world, vowing to invest heavily to ensure America prevails in the ever-growing rivalry between the world’s two largest economies.
Biden plans to unveil a multitrillion-dollar plan to upgrade US infrastructure next week.
More than 100 countries have signed agreements with China to co-operate in BRI projects such as railways, ports, highways and other infrastructure. According to a Refinitiv database, as of mid-last year, more than 2600 projects at a cost of $US3.7 trillion were linked to the initiative.
However, China said last year that about 20 per cent of BRI projects had been “seriously affected” by the coronavirus pandemic.
There are also been push-back against BRI from countries that have criticised projects as costly and unnecessary. Beijing scaled back some plans after several countries sought to review, cancel or scale down commitments, citing concerns over costs, erosion of sovereignty, and corruption.