This month, G20 leaders will endorse guiding principles for “quality infrastructure investment”, a priority for Japan. China’s support of these principles signals a willingness to address criticism of its Belt and Road Initiative. China and Japan, rivals in delivering high-speed rail, appear open to collaborating on projects that would meet high sustainability standards, writes Motoko Aizawa, President of the Observatory for Sustainable Infrastructure, who for 12 years headed the Policy and Standards Unit in the Environmental and Social Department of the International Finance Corporation (IFC).
China’s Belt and Road Initiative seems to focus on connections with Africa, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe. But the country’s economic future is really in “netware” technology, similar to America’s. Contrary to how BRI is viewed and talked about now, China’s more profitable path actually points, as illuminated by the likes of Alibaba and Tencent, eastward to California.
The continents-spanning Belt and Road Initiative may appear to be a leviathan, but a closer look at both it and China’s global quest for resources tells a more nuanced story. Even for the most authoritative of actors, situations don’t always work out as they do on paper.