Illustration Credit: Paresh Nath, Cagle Cartoons
More than seven years after President of China Xi Jinping first announced the Belt and Road—the People’s Republic’s signature twenty-first century foreign policy agenda—the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced this week that the White House would send a delegation of officials to Latin America to scout opportunities for possible infrastructure development projects to counter those of China. The American delegation included Daleep Singh, U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor for international economics, and David Marchick, Chief Operating Officer at the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. Their agenda will include meetings with President of Colombia Iván Duque, President of Ecuador Guillermo Lasso, and Panamanian Minister of Public Works Rafael Sabonge, to discuss U.S. financing for ports, highways, and railways, among other development projects.
This move from the Biden administration comes shortly after June’s Group of 7 (G7) summit, where leaders from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom discussed the possibility of countering the Belt and Road Initiative with its own infrastructure initiative, dubbed “Build Back Better World.” According to the White House, this project aims to provide “higher environmental and labor standards” than its Chinese rival, with the benefit of full financial transparency. The White House has projected that developing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will need close to USD $40 trillion dollars in infrastructure investment through the year 2035.
The Belt and Road initiative has been a key part of China’s foreign policy strategy in recent years, providing the Chinese economy with steady access to crucial resources—namely oil, minerals, and agricultural commodities—and affording the Chinese state a key source of geopolitical leverage in more than 100 countries throughout Latin America, Africa, and Central, Southern, and Southeast Asia. The U.S. plans to kick off the Build Back Better World initiative early next year with a formal launch event.