In 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping introduced the world to his legacy-defining initiative, “One Belt, One Road”. It is also alternatively referred to as “The New Silk Road” as it entails infrastructure development in countries that traverse along the old Silk Road and link it to Europe. China will reportedly spend US$150 Billion a year for the 68 countries that have joined the initiative.
Last May 2017, President Xi invited 28 heads of state and other government officials in a formal celebration of the belt and road initiative and formalise the indoctrination of “Xi Jinping Thought” into the Chinese constitution.
China’s aggressive approach toward building its presence in Southeast Asia, Africa and Europe coincided with the United States’ under President Donald J. Trump shifting its foreign policy away from the globalist roadmap established by former President Barack Obama.
President Trump has actively advocated a more nationalist strategy to “Make America Great Again”. But in what is perhaps a powerful rebuke to Xi’s legacy, Acting US Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells indicated that Washington is developing a framework that would have the United States working with Japan, India and Australia to provide an “alternative” to countries within the region that need investments in infrastructure.
“Countries that share values have an opportunity to provide alternatives to countries in the region who are seeking needed investment in their infrastructure and in their economic development, and so making sure that we coordinate our initiatives and provide these countries with alternatives that don’t include predatory financing or unsustainable debt that would certainly be on the agenda.”
Without mentioning China, the remarks on “predatory financing or unsustainable debt” were clearly directed at the Chinese government.
During his campaign, Trump repeatedly accused China of resorting to unfair trade practices such as currency manipulation which would make Chinese exports more attractive.
Wells added that Australia would be a good fit under the current tri-lateral partnership with the U.S., India and Japan. Australia was one of the few countries that did not sign up with Xi’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative citing “strategic concerns”.
U.S. Secretary of State James Mattis supported New Delhi’s objection to China’s presence in the disputed areas of Pakistan- occupied Kashmir. China has also disregarded a UN tribunal ruling granting the Philippines full sovereignty over disputed islands in the Western Philippine Sea by continuing to build military structures.
When asked if the United States’ “Quad” plan would be seen in a negative light by China, Wells gave the following response:
“I think it’s a natural expression and convergence of interests between democratic countries in the Indo-Pacific region and it’s a natural stepping stone from the very productive trilateral conversations, exercises and cooperation that we’ve seen between India, Japan and the United States.”