The People’s Republic of China on the world stage has become much “more assertive, much more aggressive, whether it’s in the region or beyond, by a variety of means,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the Fran Eizenstat and Eizenstat Family Memorial Lecture Series.
The United States is approaching the PRC across three dimensions: the competitive, the cooperative, and the adversarial. Secretary Blinken stressed that “we are much better off and much more effective in dealing with China in each of these areas if we are doing so in coordination, collaboration with [our] partners and allies.”
“One of the reasons that we’ve invested so much in revitalizing our alliances, revitalizing our partnerships, and revitalizing our engagement in international institutions is to make sure that in dealing with China, we’re doing it together. Our combined weight makes a much bigger difference in terms of effect than when we’re doing it alone, even the United States.”
Cooperation with allies is especially important in offering an alternative to the predatory nature of some projects under the PRC’s Belt and Road Initiative. These infrastructure agreements have become a burden to nations around the world, said Secretary Blinken:
“One of the problems . . .we’ve seen just in terms of the way it goes about making these investments in infrastructure is it’s had a tendency to burden countries with tremendous debts that they couldn’t afford and couldn’t get out of, either in order to pay China back for these investments, having to divert resources from other parts of its economy, or, in effect, default and have China own the asset.”
The PRC often brings its own workers to build these infrastructure projects at the expense of local workers. Workers at PRC projects also often face hazardous conditions, have no right to organize, and may be vulnerable to forced labor. It’s often done to lower construction standards, with little respect for the environment.
In response, the U.S. and its allies have launched Build Back Better World, which in partnership with the G7 countries and others, is a way of making significant high standard investments in infrastructure around the world in ways that will be ultimately more attractive to the people on the receiving end.
The United States remains committed to working with its partners and allies to engage the PRC where possible and deter where necessary.