SYDNEY: Australia, the United States, India and Japan are talking about establishing a joint regional infrastructure scheme as an alternative to China’s multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative in an attempt to counter the growing influence of Beijing, the Australian Financial Review reported Monday. , citing a senior US official.
The unnamed official was quoted as saying that the plan involving the four regional + partners was still “incipient” and “will not be mature enough to be announced” during the visit of Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to the United States at the end of this week.
The official said, however, that the project was on the agenda of the Turnbull talks with US President Donald Trump during that trip and that it was being seriously discussed. The source added that the preferred terminology was to call the plan an “alternative” to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, rather than a “rival.”
“Nobody is saying that China should not build infrastructure,” the official said. “China could build a port that, by itself, is not economically viable, we could make it economically viable by building a highway or railway line that connects that port.”
Turnbull representatives, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and Trade Minister Steven Ciobo did not respond immediately to requests for comments.
The chief secretary of the Japanese cabinet, Yoshihide Suga, asked at a press conference about the four-way cooperation report, and said that Japan, the United States, Australia and Japan, Australia and India regularly exchanged views on issues of interest common.
“It is not the case that this is to counteract the belt and the road of China,” he said.
Meanwhile, Japan plans to use its official development assistance(ODA) to promote a broader “Open and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” that includes “high-quality infrastructure”, according to a summary draft of its 2017 white paper on ODA. The Indo-Pacific strategy has been endorsed by Washington and is also considered an obstacle to the Belt and Road Initiative.
Mentioned for the first time during a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping to university students in Kazakhstan in 2013, China’s Belt and Road program is a vehicle for the country to assume a more important role on the international scene by financing and building links global transport and trade in more than 60 countries
Xi strongly promoted the initiative and invited world leaders to Beijing last May for an inaugural summit in which he pledged $ 124 billion in funds for the plan, and enshrined it in the Communist Party constitution in October.
Chinese local governments, as well as state and private companies have rushed to offer support by investing abroad and granting loans.
In January, Beijing described its ambitions to extend the initiative to the Arctic through the development of maritime routes opened by global warming, forming a “Polar Silk Road”.
The United States, Japan, India and Australia have recently reactivated the four-way talks + to deepen security cooperation and coordinate alternatives for financing regional infrastructure to those offered by China.
The so-called Quad to discuss and cooperate on security issues met for the first time as an initiative a decade ago, much to the chagrin of China, which saw it as an attempt by regional democracies to contain their progress. The quartet held talks in Manila on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summits in November and East Asia.