eg Chinese Voices
No. 54 | 01.08.2022
The dream railways drawn by African teenagers. [ke.mofcom.gov.cn]
Can Biden’s New US$600B PGII Initiative “Replace” China’s Role in Africa?
Mǎ Hànzhì (马汉智)
Ma Hanzhi is an assistant researcher in the Department for Developing Countries at the China Institute for International Studies. His main research fields are African development issues and Chinese-African relations.

Context:

The launch of the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII) at the recent G7 summit is another example of the Biden Administration's relentless push to try to undermine the Chinese-led Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). To fund PGII, the West declared its intention to provide US$600 billion in infrastructure investment to developing countries by 2027. Guancha interviewed Ma Hanzhi about his assessment of PGII’s possible impacts on the African continent.

Key points:

  • The PGII’s allocation goal of US$600 billion is more credible than the B3W initiative launched at last year’s G7 summit with an obviously incredulous figure of US$40 trillion. From a funding perspective, PGII has already integrated the US$300 billion promised by the EU’s Global Gateway Initiative, whereby US$150 billion is ear-marked for investments in African projects. Its focus is on four main areas: clean energy, health systems, gender equality, and information and communications technology (ICT). It also demonstrates a more pragmatic approach.
  • The US hopes to use PGII as a threshold to compete against the BRI, reshape its soft power position in the global development field, and pave the way for US capital to enter the African market, thus attempting to weaken China's position in the development of infrastructure projects.
  • Washington wants to reaffirm its foreign policy with "value-oriented diplomacy", especially in the focus sectors. Under the slogan of "fair and transparent communications technology”, the US is trying to exclude Chinese ICT companies from the African market, so that US technology giants can establish digital hegemony and gain easy access to the data assets in Africa. Overall, this will result in a privatization wave of key public projects, as demonstrated, in recent years, by the “Electricity for Africa Initiative”.
  • The key investment pilots announced by PGII are all in Africa, because the continent has a very large potential for investment in the cross-border infrastructure construction market. It also has a particularly large young population, and, in general, its economy is growing rapidly. However, the US mainly focuses on selected countries that are already more structurally developed. This deliberate choice of pilot projects will lead to further aggravation of the regional development gaps.
  • The PGII strategy is a direct hedge against China's newly launched Global Development Initiative (GDI). Rather than work with BRI on the four focus areas, the PGII program will force some countries to reject Chinese project proposals, unless they are willing to face different forms of US-led sanctions, including destabilization of government power.
  • China should improve its BRI efforts in three ways: 1) to understand and meet the real needs of local people, especially through tangible gains in small scale local projects, 2) to explore and enhance the sustainability of financing tools to reduce the long-term debt burden on African countries, and 3) if manageable, to try to work with some European companies and leverage their expertise in possible cooperation.
  • Finally, Africa can choose its own partners for economic development. The US-led West should give up its neocolonial and Cold War mentality of telling and dictating to Africa what it should or should not do. More investments are welcome in Africa, and all parties should shift the focus to generating real benefits and tangible gains from those investments in supporting Africa’s development.
From 2008 to the Present: Changes in China and the World
Yáo Zhōngqiū (姚中秋)
Yao Zhongqiu is a professor in the Department of Political Science, Renmin University, and a professor at the Advanced Institute for Confucian Studies, Shandong University. After 2008, he became the leading intellectual who had abandoned the neoliberal school. He is currently working on a framework for the Chinese new school of thought called Historical Politics.

Context:

Fourteen years have passed between the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and China's zeitgeist and national mentality have dramatically changed during this period. From Yao’s perspective, the fundamental reasons are threefold: 1) the capitalist world system is undergoing significant economic and political crises; 2) China's position in the world is becoming front and center; and 3) the Chinese people's perception of their own country, the West, and the US in particular, has experienced a dramatic turnaround.

Key points:

  • Over the past two centuries, the world system has undergone several structural shifts. The most recent began at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, where the world witnessed the amazing achievements of the Chinese people. Around the same time, the biggest global financial crisis since the Great Depression erupted, which deeply undermined confidence in the capitalist system and its liberal values.
  • In the first years following 2008, China-US cooperation continued unabated. Chinese elites still held the belief that a rising and prosperous China could be integrated into the so-called international community. However, by 2014, the China-US relationship gradually evolved into a "great power rivalry”. Since the West is afraid of losing its dominant role in the old world order, it shifted its policy from cooperation to containment, and significantly disrupted China’s development agenda.
  • China's economic power is also the basis for building cultural and political self-confidence, and since CPC’s 18th National Congress, China has firmly demonstrated the will to continue along the path of socialism. The US political and cultural elites then reversed their policy and advocated a decoupling strategy – both economic and technological. China has turned to a dual circulation development strategy to continue its economic progress. In this way, the Chinese and US economies have, in fact, partially decoupled.
  • Developing Marxism within a Chinese context and reviving the “DNA of Chinese culture” – especially the new political interpretation of Confucianism – is emerging as the main direction of intellectual efforts. This demonstrates that China’s academic circle has begun to re-establish its own philosophical foundation for social science disciplines and to “liberate” itself from neoliberal doctrine.
  • As the world's largest industrial producer and commodity trading country, China has proposed the Belt and Road Initiative, the concept of a Community of a Shared Future for Humankind, and the Global Development Initiative. A new "developing world system" is taking shape. In opposition to this internationalism, the US is advocating its "America First" agenda, based on racism as the dominant value in both domestic and international policies. This deprives the US of its universal moral appeal and its guardianship of the international order.
  • The unipolar, neoliberal capitalist world system is collapsing. In the future, we will see the emergence of two systems: One is the "developing world system" led by China, with equality as its core value and development as its goal, providing the necessary technological and industrial support to the Global South; the other is the shrinking and moribund capitalist system led by the US, striving to safeguard the vested interests of a few developed countries, and exercising its technological and industrial monopoly.
  • The post-epidemic era will be marked by a fierce, long-term struggle between the two systems. Only through the Great Struggle that breaks the US-led military, technological, and economic monopoly, can we unite more peoples and countries and light the path forward in building a new form of global human civilization.

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