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“Take a tooth for a tooth”: Is it possible to use the “American version of the Belt and Road” to counter China?

 In News Articles

This article originally published at https://www.voachinese.com/a/beat-china-at-its-own-game-will-us-belt-and-road-work-20210224/5792031.html on June 3, 2021.

 

WASHINGTON — The former U.S. Secretary of the Navy and former Senator Jim Webb recently issued an article in which he put forward an interesting proposal in which he called on the Biden administration to launch the “American version of the Belt and Road Initiative” to counter China’s influence in the world. Weber believes that the United States can do better than China. This proposal has sparked a lot of debate. Some scholars believe that the United States encourages free competition and that the “Belt and Road” initiative is not the way the United States does things.

 

Weber published an article in the Wall Street Journal on February 17 advising the Biden administration to consider launching the “US version of the Belt and Road.” “China invests in large-scale infrastructure projects all over the world to increase its influence, and the United States can do the same,” he said.

 

Weber pointed out that as an important part of China’s global strategy for hegemony, the Chinese government has established economic and diplomatic ties with developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America through the “One Belt, One Road” project, and conducted military infiltration on the grounds of protecting the interests of these projects. However, public discussions in the United States have not paid enough attention to this.

 

Weber believes that the Chinese government’s escalating military, diplomatic provocations and human rights persecution in recent years have made many developing countries hesitate to participate in the Belt and Road Initiative. He called on the Biden administration to seize this opportunity and begin to attach importance to the “often neglected countries” in U.S. foreign policy, and to give these regions the opportunity to choose the U.S. in order to counter China’s influence and prevent the world system from being coerced by authoritarianism. This is conducive to the “diplomatic and economic health” of the United States.

 

“This is not a doomed career, but an unrecognized opportunity,” Weber said.

 

Weber proposed that the Biden administration implement a comprehensive and coordinated policy in Asia, Africa and Latin America, integrating thoughtful diplomacy, security commitments, and project investment and participation by the American business community to fill the vacuum.

 

Weber also believes that the United States can do better than China. “The U.S.’s major investment in this—without colonial motives and based on a more credible and more time-tested business model—will forcefully start developing economies, and at the same time boost the U.S. economy, and inspire further progress in a global free society. Pre-development,” Weber said.

 

The United States encourages free competition, “One Belt One Road” is not our way of doing things

 

As soon as the article came out, supporters called Weber a “visionary pragmatist”, and the United States urgently needed to implement it, and it was not too late. Jose Manuel, a student of international relations at King Juan Carlos University in Spain, said on Twitter: “If the United States wants to prevent China from winning the title of world superpower, it will be able to retaliate and support the Asian and African countries. Investment projects in Latin America.”

 

However, American liberal economists urged that the United States should not follow China in its competition with China.

 

Tony Nash, founder of the data analysis company Complete Intelligence, told VOA: “The Belt and Road Initiative or the Made in China 2025, this is not an American way of doing things.”

 

Nash believes that the best way for the United States to deal with competition among major powers is to encourage free competition. The United States’ world influence should come from an international system that advocates transparency and free competition.

 

On February 23, John Tamny, editor of RealClearMarkets, a US economic news website, pointed out that “the influence of the United States is freedom.” He believes that projects such as the “Belt and Road” highly dependent on government regulation will only waste huge amounts of resources. , And damage the United States’ world image of advocating free competition.

 

In an interview with VOA, Michael Kugelman, director of Asian projects at the Wilson Center in Washington think tank, said that the United States’ number one strategic competitor, China, is exerting its influence on a global scale through the Belt and Road Initiative. It is true that the United States has increased its investment in overseas infrastructure projects. There is strategic value, but now is not the time. Currently, the focus of the Biden administration is to revitalize the US economy.

 

However, Joyce Mao, a professor of history at Middlebury College in Vermont and an expert on U.S.-Asia relations, supports the United States’ overseas infrastructure investment. She told the Voice of America that the US foreign policy that integrates mature diplomacy and strategic intervention is inseparable from the domestic development of the United States. But she also pointed out that it is a challenge to obtain sufficient American public support and bipartisan consensus on this point.

 

Whether the proposal can be supported by the American public

 

Henry Blodget, the founder of the news website Business Insider, said on Twitter: “Good idea, but the United States has not yet reached an agreement on investment in domestic infrastructure.” Independent media “Chinese “Non-projects” also said on Twitter: “U.S. taxpayers’ own roads, bridges, and airports are in a state of disrepair. It is hard to imagine that they will support huge investments in infrastructure construction in developing countries to compete with China.”

 

Nash of Complete Intelligence believes that the American public cannot accept spending trillions of dollars on overseas projects right now. Under the impact of the epidemic, there are too many places to spend money in the United States. If the US government spends money and energy on this knot to form a global infrastructure investment plan, it will certainly make many taxpayers angry.

 

Kugelman of the Wilson Center said that the top priority of the Biden administration is obviously to restart the motor of the US domestic economy. Investment in overseas infrastructure is a strategic issue worth considering in the future, but at least it will have to wait a few more months. “If you do this at the same time, Two things become a situation where you have to keep the cake and eat the cake,” Kugelman said.

 

“People who are struggling in the’rust zone’ due to industrial decline will not have a good response if they hear that their government will launch such a huge plan to develop infrastructure projects thousands of miles away,” Kugelman said.

 

Professor Mao of Mingde College said that Weber’s proposal while the U.S. economy is still trapped by the epidemic is worthy of scrutiny. She pointed out that there are many debates about where the health and well-being of the American economy come from. This has always been a classic political issue that has divided opinions between conservatives and liberals in the United States. At this special moment of the epidemic, this disagreement focuses on what kind of economic plan is the one that will enable the United States to recover from the epidemic.

 

Weber said in the article that US investment in infrastructure projects in developing countries not only helps to counter China, but also benefits the US economy. But Professor Mao pointed out that Weber’s proposal seems to “assume that most Americans can understand and agree that the future of the US economy depends on the existence of internationalism and interventionism”, but the reality is not the case. She said that although there is a lot of political support in the United States, especially within the Republican conservatives, in the fight against China, investing in large-scale overseas infrastructure projects may not be consistent with their political priorities.

 

“What benefits will the U.S. version of the Belt and Road Initiative bring to ordinary U.S. citizens? How will employment opportunities be realized? To what extent can it help develop overseas markets and other resources for U.S. goods?” Professor Mao believes that this proposal is necessary Get enough support. These are the basic questions that need to be answered to the American public and policymakers.

 

Kugelman: There are ready-made investment frameworks available

 

Kugelman pointed out that although a large-scale plan such as the “US version of the Belt and Road” should first give way to the restoration of the domestic economy, Biden’s policy can make good use of the relevant institutions and tools that have been established during the Trump administration to implement Related investment commitments.

 

In 2018, Trump signed the “Good Use of Investment Guidance and Development Act” (referred to as the BUILD Act), which merged the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Development Credit Administration (DCA) under the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to form a new establishment The United States International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) was established to enhance the United States’ international development financing capabilities, and expanded financing and financing tools to coordinate and promote the participation of the U.S. private sector in the economic construction of developing countries.

 

Under the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Policy”, the Trump administration signed a memorandum of cooperation on a trilateral infrastructure investment partnership with Japan and Australia in 2018 to jointly encourage and support domestic private companies to build high-tech projects in the Indo-Pacific region that meet international standards. Quality infrastructure construction project.

 

In 2019, the United States, Japan and Australia jointly launched the Blue Dot Network (Blue Dot Network) to counter China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative in Asia. The plan unites the government, enterprises and civil society to evaluate and certify infrastructure projects under “common standards” to promote high-quality projects for sustainable development.

 

David Dollar and Jonathan Stromseth, fellows of the Brookings Institution’s China Program, also called on the Biden administration to implement a series of infrastructure investment commitments in Southeast Asia during the Trump administration. They pointed out that nearly 42,000 U.S. companies export products to 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), supporting approximately 600,000 jobs in the U.S. However, the U.S.’s economic position in the region is facing the erosion of China, and Southeast Asia has become Beijing. A hotbed of strategic competition with Washington.

 

Nash: Government-supported projects shouldn’t be a way of American competition

 

Nash, who had provided consulting and assistance to China’s National Development and Reform Commission on the “Belt and Road” project, told VOA that China’s “Belt and Road” operation principle is to transfer funds from banks that carry out overseas business in China to China, which invests in infrastructure projects around the world. Among state-owned and semi-state-owned entities, it is a way of financing overseas and domestic debt. Although the United States also has international financing institutions such as the International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC), its scale of operation is unlikely to support large overseas investment projects such as China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. In addition, China can provide loans with negative interest rates for certain projects, but US financial institutions that have always focused on risk management standards are unlikely to do so.

 

Nash also said that the best way for the United States to compete among major powers is to compete freely. Whether it is China’s “One Belt, One Road” or “Made in China 2025” industrial policy, it should not be the way the United States follows. These projects are highly dependent on the role of the government, and the government has invested heavily to support the technology industry or support domestic companies to invest in overseas projects. Doing so may nourish a group of companies and industries whose actual competitiveness is not up to the standard.

 

“The best way is to let American construction companies and infrastructure companies go out to compete for projects. If they can’t compete, then they should fail because they are not competitive enough,” Nash said.

 

At a seminar last month, Clyde Prestowitz, a well-known American expert on globalization and Asian issues and director of the Institute for Economic Strategy, said that the Biden administration should have a far-reaching industrial policy. “China has their Made in China 2025, and we should have our Made in America 2025,” he said.

 

Nash believes that the way for the United States and China to maintain influence and leadership on a global scale is to uphold the values ​​of transparency and free competition. He believes that the United States previously required NATO allies to be open and transparent in defense spending as a manifestation of leadership.

 

He believes that the United States should also continue to pursue transparency against government subsidies and non-tariff barriers, so as to ensure that the World Trade Organization can effectively perform inspections in this area, so that the world can see how the industries of various countries are protected. of. At the same time, the United States should also call on the international community to pursue transparency in foreign aid. Where does the money go?

 

“The United States has come forward to demand transparency in multilateral organizations, transparency in foreign aid, and a free competition environment for international bidding for infrastructure projects. This is the best way for the United States to demonstrate and maintain leadership,” Nash said.

 

How to do the “US version of the Belt and Road Initiative”?

 

Kugelman believes that the United States is still gaining the upper hand in the competition between the United States and China, whether it is military strength or a leading advantage in high-tech fields. Like Weber, he also believes that although the United States has faced some setbacks in soft power in recent years, it is still ahead of China.

 

Kugelman therefore emphasized that the United States should have its own pace and expectations in terms of overseas infrastructure investment, and there is no need to equalize with China in the order of magnitude. After all, China has already led too many steps in this area. “With some progress in the field of infrastructure investment, instead of investing heavily in this to catch up with China in vain, why not focus more on maintaining the United States’ competitive advantage and comparative advantage in its traditionally leading field?” Kugelman said.

 

Kugelman partially agrees with Weber’s view that the United States can do better in infrastructure investment. He said that the quality of many of China’s Belt and Road projects has been criticized, such as financial opacity, the breeding of corruption, damage to the local environment, and the substandard rights of workers. The United States can provide a higher standard and high-quality options for these issues. China has built surveillance systems through infrastructure projects in some areas to export authoritarianism. The United States obviously can also provide less intrusive options in this regard.

 

Like Weber, Kugelman also believes that China’s “wolf war diplomacy” in recent years has opened up opportunities for the United States. Kugelman cited, for example, that China’s aggressive strategy of flexing muscles in the South China Sea has sounded the alarm for many countries in the region, and began to question whether the consistent attitude of “asking the United States for security and asking China for money” should continue. He believes that the United States should focus on investing in countries like the Philippines that hesitate to China and are a key regional ally of the United States.

 

前美国海军部长也是前参议员吉姆·韦伯(Jim Webb)最近发文,提出一项有意思的建议,他呼吁拜登政府启动“美国版的一带一路”来抗衡中国在世界的影响。韦伯认为,美国可以做得比中国更好。这项建议引发不少议论,有学者认为,美国鼓励自由竞争,“一带一路”不是美国的做事方式。

 

韦伯2月17日在《华尔街日报》上发文倡议拜登政府考虑启动“美版一带一路”。“中国在世界各地到处投资大型基建项目以增强影响力,美国也可以这么做,” 他说。

 

韦伯指出,作为中国争霸全球战略的重要部分,中国政府通过“一带一路”项目与亚非拉发展中国家建立经济和外交联系,并以保护这些项目利益为由进行军事渗透。但美国的公共讨论对此重视不足。

 

韦伯认为,中国政府近年来不断升级的军事、外交挑衅和人权迫害已让许多发展中国家开始对参与一带一路产生迟疑。他呼吁拜登政府抓住这一时机,开始重视在美国对外政策中“常被忽视的国家”,给这些地区选择美国的机会,以此抗衡中国影响力,防止世界体系为威权主义所胁迫,这有利于美国的“外交和经济健康”。

 

“这不是败局注定的事业,而是没被认识到的机会,” 韦伯说。

 

韦伯提议拜登政府在亚非拉地区实施一项各领域通力协调的全面政策,融合深思熟虑的外交、安全保障承诺和美国商界的项目投资和参与,填补真空。

 

韦伯也认为美国可以比中国做得更好。“美国在这上面的重大投入——不带殖民动机且基于更具信誉度、更久经考验的商业模式——将强力启动发展中经济体,同时提升美国经济,激励全球自由社会的进一步向前发展,” 韦伯说。

 

美国鼓励自由竞争 “一带一路”不是我们的做事方法

 

文章一出,支持者称韦伯是“有远见的实用主义者”,美国急需践行,为时不晚。西班牙胡安卡洛斯国王大学国际关系专业学生何塞·玛努埃尔(Jose Manuel)在推特上表示:“美国若想阻止中国夺得世界超级大国的头衔,就得以牙还牙,支持在亚非拉国家的投资项目。”

 

然而,美国自由派经济学家呼吁,美国不该在与中国的竞争中效仿中国的做法。

 

数据分析公司Complete Intelligence创始人托尼·纳什(Tony Nash) 告诉美国之音:“‘一带一路’或‘中国制造2025’,这不是美国式的做事方式。”

 

纳什认为,美国应对大国竞争的最佳方式是鼓励自由竞争,美国的世界影响力该来自于倡导透明和自由竞争的国际体系。

 

美国经济新闻网站RealClearMarkets编辑约翰·塔姆尼(John Tamny)2月23日发文指出,“美国的影响力就是自由”,他认为“一带一路”这类高度依赖政府调控的项目只会浪费巨额资源,并损害美国倡导自由竞争的世界形象。

 

华盛顿智库威尔逊中心亚洲项目主任迈克尔·库格尔曼(Michael Kugelman)在接受美国之音采访时表示,美国的头号战略竞争对手中国在全球范围内通过一带一路施展影响,美国增强海外基建项目投资固然有战略价值,但现在不是时候。疫情当前,拜登政府的重心是重振美国经济。

 

不过,美国佛蒙特州明德学院(Middlebury College)历史系教授、美亚关系专家乔伊斯·毛(Joyce Mao)支持美国的海外基建投资。她对美国之音表示,融合成熟外交和策略性干预的美国对外政策和美国国内的发展密不可分。但她也指出,要在这一点上获得足够的美国公众支持和两党共识是个挑战。

 

提议能否获美国公众支持

 

新闻网站商业内幕(Business Insider)的创始人亨利·布拉吉(Henry Blodget)在推特上说:“好主意,但美国都还没能在投资国内基础设施上达成一致。” 独立媒体“中非项目”也在推特上称:“美国纳税人自己的道路、桥梁和机场处于年久失修状态,很难想象他们会支持巨额投资发展中国家的基础设施建设以与中国竞争。”

 

Complete Intelligence的纳什认为,美国公众现下不可能接受花几万亿美元在海外项目上。疫情冲击下,美国国内有太多地方需要花钱。美国政府如果在这个节骨眼上花钱和精力组建一个全球基建投资计划,肯定会让很多纳税人生气。

 

威尔逊中心的库格尔曼表示,拜登政府的当务之急显然是重启美国国内经济的马达,投资海外基建是今后值得考虑的战略议题,但至少也得再等几个月,“若此刻同时做这两件事,就变成又要留住蛋糕又要吃蛋糕的局面,” 库格尔曼说。

 

“因工业衰退而挣扎在‘铁锈地带’的人们,如果他们听说自己的政府将启动如此庞大的计划,以发展千里之外的基建项目,不会有好反响的,”库格尔曼说。

 

明德学院的毛教授表示,韦伯在美国经济仍为疫情所困之际作出这样的提议有一定值得推敲之处。她指出,有关美国经济的健康和福祉从何而来有很多争论,这历来是个让美国保守派和自由派意见分歧的经典政治问题。在疫情这一特殊时刻下,这种分歧就聚焦在到底怎样的经济计划才是能让美国从疫情中恢复的计划。

 

韦伯在文章中说,美国在发展中国家投资基建项目不仅有助于抗衡中国,而且也有利于美国经济。但毛教授指出,韦伯的这一建议似乎是“假设了大多数美国人能理解和认同美国经济的未来依赖于国际主义的存在和干涉主义的存在”,但现实并非如此。她说,尽管在对抗中国方面,美国国内尤其是共和党保守派内部有很多政治支持,但投资海外大型基建项目可能与他们的政治优先项并不一致。

 

“美国版的‘一带一路’会给普通美国公民带来哪些实惠?就业机会将如何实现?能在多大程度上帮助开发美国商品的海外市场和其他资源?” 毛教授认为,这份提议若要获得足够支持,这些是需要向美国公众和政策制定者回答的基本问题。

 

库格尔曼:有现成投资框架可用

 

库格尔曼指出,虽然“美版一带一路”这样大规模的计划该先让位于恢复美国国内经济,但拜登政策可以利用好从特朗普政府期间已经设立的相关机构和工具,落实相关投资承诺。

 

特朗普于2018年签署《善用投资引导发展法》(简称BUILD法),将海外私人投资公司(OPIC)和美国国际开发署(USAID)下属的发展信贷管理局(DCA)合并,新成立了美国国际发展金融公司(IDFC),以增强美国的国际发展融资能力,对融资力度和融资工具都进行了拓展,统筹并促进美国私营部门参与发展中国家的经济建设。

 

在“自由开放印太政策”下,特朗普政府在2018年与日本和澳大利亚签署了三边基础设施投资伙伴关系合作备忘录,共同鼓励和支持本国私营企业在印太地区建设符合国际标准的高质量基础设施建设项目。

 

2019年,美国与日本和澳大利亚共同推出蓝点计划(Blue Dot Network),在亚洲地区抗衡中国的“一带一路”。该计划联合政府、企业和民间社会,在“共同标准下”评鉴和认证基建项目,助推可持续发展的高质量项目。

 

布鲁金斯学会中国项目研究员杜大伟(David Dollar)和周思哲(Jonathan Stromseth)也在2月17日呼吁拜登政府将特朗普政府期间一系列针对东南亚地区的基建投资承诺落实。他们指出,近4.2万家美国公司向东南亚国家联盟(ASEAN)10个成员国出口产品,支持美国约60万个就业机会,但美国在该区域的经济地位正面临中国的蚕食,东南亚已成为北京和华盛顿之间战略竞争的温床。

 

纳什:政府扶持项目不该是美国的竞争方式

 

曾在“一带一路”项目上为中国国家发改委提供咨询帮助的纳什告诉美国之音,中国“一带一路”的运行原理是将资金从中国开展海外业务的银行输送到在世界各地投资基建项目的中国国有和半国有实体中,是一种为海外和国内债务融资的方式。美国虽也有像美国国际发展金融公司(IDFC)这样的国际融资机构,但其运行规模不可能支撑像中国“一带一路”这样庞大的海外投资项目。此外,中国能向某些项目提供负利率的贷款,但一向注重风险管理标准的美国金融机构不太可能这么做。

 

纳什同时表示,美国进行大国竞争的最佳方式就是自由竞争。不管是中国的“一带一路”还是“中国制造2025”这样的产业政策,都不该是美国效仿的方式。这些项目都高度依赖政府角色,由政府出巨资扶持科技产业或扶持本国公司进行海外项目投资。这样做有可能滋养一批实际竞争力并不达标的公司和产业。

 

“最好的方法是让美国的建筑公司和基础设施公司自己出去竞争获得项目。如果他们竞争不到,那他们就该失败,因为他们没有足够竞争力,” 纳什说。

 

在上个月一场研讨会上,美国知名全球化和亚洲问题专家、经济战略研究所所长普雷斯托维茨(Clyde Prestowitz)曾表示,拜登政府该有一个影响深远的产业政策。“中国有他们的中国制造2025,我们应该有我们的美国制造2025,” 他说。

 

纳什认为,美中在全球范围内维持影响力和领导力的方式是秉持透明和自由竞争的价值理念。他认为美国之前要求北约盟国在国防开支上做到公开透明就是领导力的体现。

 

他认为,美国也该继续针对政府补贴和非关税壁垒等现象追求透明化,确保世界贸易组织能够切实做到这方面的督查工作,以让全世界都能看到各国的产业是如何被保护的。同时,美国也该呼吁国际社会在对外援助方面追求透明化,出去的钱到底流向何方?

 

“美国站出来要求多边组织的透明度,要求对外援助的透明度,要求基建项目的国际竞标有自由竞争的环境,这才是美国展示和保持领导力的最佳方式,” 纳什说。

 

“美版一带一路”怎么做?

 

库格尔曼认为,美国目前仍在美中竞争中占上风,不管是军事实力还是高新科技领域的领先优势。和韦伯一样,他也认为尽管美国近年来在软实力上面临一些挫折,但仍然领先于中国。

 

库格尔曼因此强调,在海外基建投资方面美国该有自己的步调和预期,没必要非得在数量级上和中国平分秋色,毕竟中国在这上面已经领先太多步了。“在基建投资领域取得一些进展的情况下,与其在这上面投入巨资徒劳追赶中国,何不更加专注于保持美国在其一贯领先的领域的竞争优势和相对优势呢?” 库格尔曼说。

 

库格尔曼部分认同韦伯对于美国可以把基建投资做得更好的看法。他说,中国不少一带一路项目的质量收到批评,比如财务不透明、腐败滋生、破坏当地环境、工人权益不达标等等。美国可以针对这些问题提供一个更高标准高质量的选择项。中国在部分地区通过基建项目大造监控系统,输出威权主义,美国在这方面显然也能提供侵入性更小的选择项。

 

和韦伯一样,库格尔曼也认为中国近年来的“战狼外交”给美国开创了机会。库格尔曼举例说,中国在南中国海愈加秀肌肉的蛮力战略给该区域的许多国家敲了警钟,开始质疑“向美国要安全,向中国要钱”的一贯态度是否还该继续。他认为,美国该重点投资像菲律宾这样又对中国产生迟疑又是美国关键区域盟友的国家。

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