B3W: Bankrupt before even getting shovels in the ground

By Andrew Wong (People's Daily Online) 15:25, August 17, 2022

All political elites in the U.S., no matter which party they belong to, are now concentrating their firepower against China. In refusing to any give and take with its paramount Asian competitor, the U.S., which has claimed itself to be the Chosen Land of God, has resorted to whatever means at its disposal to slow down China’s development. Last year, it was the Build Back Better World (B3W) initiative that became the new utensil in the U.S. government’s toolkit to confront China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Joe Biden, now almost half-way through his term as president of the U.S., got his start at a Group of Seven (G7) summit, declaring that “America is back at the table.” He offered up the B3W as an ambitious plan that promised to help narrow the developing world’s more than $40 trillion infrastructure gap by 2035.

When all was said and (not) done, the lifespan of this proposal lasted no more than one year, with the initiative never seeing the light of day in the end. When the G7 leaders reunited for three days from June 26 to 28 at Schloss Elmau in Germany, they arrived to find the initiative in tatters. Such an investment gap, when taken as a whole, is equivalent to the total combined GDPs of the U.S. and China, currently the first and second largest economies in the world. It seems that all of Biden’s counterparts at the G7 felt overwhelmed by the proposed amount of investment and the ambitious goals of the group’s chief member, having opted instead to withdraw from the B3W initiative altogether, which, it turns out, proved to be par for the course with the Western bloc of advanced economies.

Ipso facto, lacking any real effect (related bills are still stalled in the U.S. Congress), funding, as well as capacities (America’s domestic infrastructure investment and maintenance fees have long been under fire), the support for this initiative has failed to even materialize in the U.S. The B3W has shown the world what can be achieved with an infrastructure partnership that “reflects democratic values.”

The story doesn’t end there. At the same G7 forum, the U.S. launched its Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) and to some extent, the B3W could best be characterized as bankrupt before even getting shovels in the ground.

According to a fact sheet published by the White House, the U.S. government has launched projects under the PGII covering sectors such as electricity, nuclear power plant development, the digital economy, food security and vaccines. In reality, many of these projects overlap with existing U.S. programs that have already been deployed in developing countries, and yet the financial problems that plague such U.S. foreign aid endeavors continue. For instance, the Digital Invest program in Asia, Africa, and Latin America aims to leverage $3.45 million in U.S. Agency for International Development funding to mobilize up to $335 million in private capital—which remains a largely impossible feat. If the developing world entrusts its infrastructure development to this project, opportunities will probably be missed.

By and large, it is the destructive power of the U.S., rather than its constructive contribution, that leaves others stupefied and in nothing but awe. During the 240 years of American history, only 16 years have been free of wars. All inhabited continents, ranging from Africa to Latin America, have been marked with the footprints of American firepower. Of course, the U.S. is not good at remembering, still less revisiting its own history. Nevertheless, the American people’s fame and greatness will never be taken seriously by the people living in Iraq, Afghanistan, former Yugoslavia, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, and Venezuela. The local aborigines of Bikini Atoll (Marshall Islands) turned out to be lab rats for American nuclear weapon experiments. In 2003, the U.S. began its invasion against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq based on the infamous "test tube full of washing powder" conspiracy, which then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell used as a prop to claim evidence of weapons of mass destruction.

Indeed, if the U.S. added up the cost of war in the past 22 years and instead devoted it to the construction of the world, especially the people living in the Middle East and Africa, it would have proved substantially more beneficial, providing access to high-quality infrastructure and opportunities for peaceful development. It has been the strategy of the U.S. government, as well as its preference for the principle of might makes right, that has eroded the prestige of this declining superpower.

With its position at the spear tip of the Five Eyes Alliance, the U.S. is now steering the West toward a course of contending against China’s rise. China, in fact, never actually stated its intentions to become a challenger.

Since the end of 2019, COVID-19 and its variants have been ravaging the people of the world. To date, more than 5 million people have died from the virus. The other side of this picture is that there is no way to make COVID-19 suddenly disappear. Facing this monster, it is hard to imagine a future without China or the U.S. coming together to overcome challenges and manage to find ways to tackle problems. This prospect for cooperation will prove to be vital for the fate of human beings living on this planet.

And yet, both B3W and PGII remain nothing but American tricks aimed at exerting a negative influence on China’s rise. Even today, the U.S. is still fostering greater ideological frictions rather than the necessity and requirement of other countries, to make decisions of which project of infrastructure deserves to be invested under the framework of PGII. In other words, both of these plans will do little to promote international cooperation. If the U.S. can do something practical for once to fulfill the real-world expectations of developing countries, the people of the world will appreciate its kindness. The past and present have provided ample reasons for the U.S. to march to a different drumbeat instead of pushing back against another country’s rise. In this way, the U.S. should immediately abandon its Cold War mentality. 

The author is an expert on international studies.

The opinions expressed in this article reflect those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of People's Daily Online. 

(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)


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