China Mocks Joe Biden for Mulling Belt and Road Alternative

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 25: U.S. President Joe Biden answers questions during the first news conference of his presidency in the East Room of the White House on March 25, 2021 in Washington, DC. On the 64th day of his administration, Biden, 78, faced questions about the coronavirus pandemic, immigration, …
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Chinese state media mocked U.S. President Joe Biden for suggesting Friday the free nations of the world create an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Chinese Communist editorialists said the U.S. no longer has the wealth, influence, or organizational skill to rival China’s international infrastructure plan, which they claimed the West has unfairly maligned as an effort to dominate the Third World by indebting its governments to Chinese banks.

Biden told reporters on Friday that he suggested creating an alternative to BRI in a telephone conversation with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“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 said.

On Sunday, China’s state-run Global Times laughed at Biden for thinking he could create a global infrastructure plan when he cannot pass a U.S. infrastructure bill:

Despite the fact that Washington has aired its concerns over the BRI, it has yet to convince countries that it can offer a reliable alternative to the Chinese initiative. As the US is thinking about helping the world with infrastructure construction, its own infrastructure is in urgent need of update. As a matter of fact, Biden’s $3 trillion package with a giant infrastructure plan to boost infrastructure in the US is still under debate – the plan cannot even make all Democrats say “Yes.” 

If the infrastructure scheme that Biden proposed really aims at improving connectivity between countries while promoting their infrastructure, it is worth anticipating. However, given the current moves and statements made by Washington, it is hard to say that the US has necessary capital or willingness to realize such an approach. 

Moreover, as the “America First” doctrine still prevails in the US, any country will have to think twice whether there would be any additional precondition to accept the US “good will” and if they can afford it.

The Global Times asserted more countries will turn to China for global leadership because its authoritarian one-party dictatorship is a more stable, reliable, and “credible” development partner than the mercurial American democracy, and because the Chinese dictatorship is prepared to throw far more funding at foreign projects than elected officials who have to worry about displeasing their domestic constituencies.

Another Global Times editorial on Monday accused Biden of a “lack of long-term understanding of China and a clearly defined strategy,” because he can think of nothing better than copying China’s Belt and Road plan.

The Global Times said Biden was only talking about copying Belt and Road because China is winning the global political battle over issues like the coronavirus and forced labor in Xinjiang:

It also showed that the leaders of those Western countries may have to “do something” to respond to rising anti-China voices in their own countries as Beijing hit back resolutely against unilateral sanctions over Xinjiang and so-called human rights issue. The suggestion to unify those “democratic states” without any realistic approach can only be seen as tough rhetoric rather than concrete action, according to experts.

The Communist paper said the rest of the world understands China’s dedication to mutual prosperity and has ignored American criticism of BRI as “debt-trap diplomacy”:

“What is the BRI that China has proposed? It’s about building infrastructure projects together and sharing the benefits of those projects, during which all parties can be involved, including developed countries and third-party markets, and the ultimate goal is for development, to share the benefits stemming from such development,” Wang said, noting that a benefit-driven initiative, rather than a decoupling fueled by geopolitics that incurs huge losses, can be accepted by many. 

Mutual beneficial intentions also explain why some major allies of Washington, for example, Italy, have already ignored the smear from Biden’s predecessor and joined the initiative in 2019, and leaders of some EU member countries like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, openly supported the BRI, seeing it as “an opportunity” rather than a “threat.”

The Global Times was especially vicious toward U.K. Prime Minister Johnson, calling him a hypocrite because he made positive comments about BRI in the past and suggesting he is only critical of it now because he wants to curry favor with the United States after exiting from the European Union.

Both of these Chinese Communist editorials hammered the idea that China is devastating its critics by “hitting back” with overwhelming effectiveness against Western criticism of Chinese human rights violations. 

Cui Hongjian, director of European studies at the China Institute of International Studies, sneered that Europeans had better start dialing back their human rights complaints, or they might provoke Beijing into crushing their China-dependent economies.

“European countries will eventually realize that they cannot feed their citizens with values unless the U.S. actually is willing to cut some ‘flesh’ of its own,” Cui warned.

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