Speaking to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday, President Biden suggested that the US and its allies should pursue a massive infrastructure plan to compete with China’s Belt and Road initiative.
“We talked about China and the competition they’re engaging in in the Belt and Road Initiative,” Biden told reporters after the call. “And I suggested we should have, essentially, a similar initiative coming from the democratic states.”
The Belt and Road initiative is an ambitious project that was launched by Beijing in 2013. It stretches from East Asia to Europe, and most of Washington’s European and NATO allies are involved in the project. The Trump administration discouraged its allies from participating in the project but did not have much success.
Biden’s suggestion to Johnson came after his first press conference that was held Thursday, where he vowed that he would not allow China to become the world’s “leading” country. “China has an overall goal … to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch,” he said.
Using Cold War-style language, Biden painted US competition with China as a battle between democracy and autocracy. “I predict to you, your children or grandchildren are going to be doing their doctoral thesis on the issue of who succeeded: autocracy or democracy? Because that is what is at stake, not just with China,” he said.
With Biden putting the US-China relationship in the framework of competing ideologies, it’s no surprise that he would want to counter the Belt and Road initiative. The US seems to be threatened by Beijing’s investments across the world.
Biden’s approach to China is very similar to Trump’s, except the new administration can get US allies to play along. On Monday, the US, EU, UK, and Canada all announced sanctions on Chinese officials over alleged human rights abuses in Xinjiang.