The US, Japan, India, and Australia have been meeting and discussing the creation of a common infrastructure in order to potentially develop a new “Indo-Pacific Strategy” designed to to Counter Chinese Belt and Road Initiative.
The Chinese Belt and Road initiative is a massive program that could involve up to one third of the global GDP and 60 percent of the world’s population. It’s an initiative that has received the opposition of India, as a part of the road traverses Kashmir, which is occupied by Pakistan.
US Defense Secretary, speaking to the Senate Armed Services Committee in reference to the new Afghanistan-centric South Asia strategy, James Mattis said “no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating such a project”. He told the legislators “in a globalised world, there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself into a position of dictating ‘one belt, one road.'”
With China being one of the new major “threats” to American superiority and exceptionalism, the US has a plan to stand up to China, not just militarily, but also economically and politically. But with the new attitude towards international agreements that has been carried out recently, will they pull this off?
The prospect of such an initiative will be watched closely by Beijing which is already jumpy at the same four nations for agreeing last year to restore the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD).
In November, China protested after senior foreign affairs officials from Australia, the US, Japan and India met in Manila on the sidelines ASEAN and East Asia Summits in Manila to discuss the restoration of the QSD. The dialogue was devised last decade to try to contain China but collapsed when the Rudd government withdrew due to pressure from Beijing.The US and her allies have long been suspicious of Belt and Road, a massive push by Chinese President Xi Jinping to fund a global network of major infrastructure projects throughout the region and beyond such as ports, rail networks, bridges and roads.
The US regards it as a vehicle for Beijing to exert its influence globally.
While almost 70 countries, including New Zealand and several European nations, have signed up to Belt and Road, the Turnbull government has been cautious whereas Labor has signalled a preparedness to join the initiative as part of an increased embrace of Asia, should it win the next election. Last year, shadow treasurer Chris Bowen flagged joint infrastructure ventures in Australia’s north using funds from the $5 billion loan facility, the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund.
The US move to set up a joint regional infrastructure scheme comes after the Financial Review reported exclusively last week concerns by Admiral Harry Harris, who is set to be US ambassador to Australia, over China’s growing influence and predatory economic behaviour in the Indo-Pacific.
Mr Turnbull flies to Washington on Wednesday for a three-day visit during which he will met President Donald Trump and lead a delegation of state and territory leaders and business executives. The delegation will attend the annual gathering of US state governors in Washington DC where infrastructure will be a hot topic.
Over the course of the past year, America decided that it didn’t want to play with the other kids any more, or that they would have to share more than America does, of course, America gets to play with it first. Then, it sees the kids on the other side of the pond playing with this belt and road thing, and gets a little jealous. So now it wants to band together with a few of its besties to make their own special club to rival that of the other kids.