Developing World Alliances
Developing countries have been an important focus of China’s foreign policy. They are sources of raw materials and an export destination. China uses its One Belt One Road strategy to expand its economic reach and to use its excess production and labor. Developing countries can also offer military base locations and voting support at the United Nations.
Beijing has used its economic power to buy off elites through opaque, corrupt negotiations that lead to economic deals that favor elites and beggar the population. Low quality, expensive infrastructure is often the result. But democratic processes eventually bring these deals to light. New Tanzanian president John Magufuli canceled his predecessor’s $10 billion port deal with China because it had conditions that “only a drunkard” would accept. And a new government in Malaysia negotiated down by 30 percent a deal inked with China by a prior government.
A constructive allied response would have the United States and the Free World offer fairer infrastructure options to developing countries. The Blue Dot Network represents one such response. It was launched in November 2019 at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok as a joint initiative of the United States, Japan, and Australia. Dubbed a “Quality Coalition,” it is a multilateral platform for governments, private companies, and citizens to validate projects based on international best practices. It could become a global infrastructure projects rating agency, which in turn would attract more capital to these projects.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an intergovernmental economic organization with thirty-seven democratic member countries, published in October 2020 a “Compendium of Policy Good Practices for Quality Infrastructure Investment.” China is not an OECD member. The OECD could lend valuable support to the Blue Dot initiative.
The United States remains the indispensable nation. To ensure that the new cold war concludes successfully, the United States must lead the Free World in a web of collective responses across multiple domains. These Alliance Networks of formal and informal arrangements capitalize on diverse perspectives and are built on trust and shared democratic ideals. The surest way to preserve the world’s freedom, peace, and prosperity is for the world’s democracies to act in concert, pitting their collective strength against Beijing’s isolation.
David Stilwell served at the Department of State as the Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and at the Department of Defense as the Asia advisor to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. A retired Air Force Brigadier General, he was also Defense Attache at the U.S. Embassy in China.
Dan Negrea served at the Department of State as the Special Representative for Commercial and Business Affairs and as a member of the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff. A former Wall Street executive, he defected in his youth from Communist Romania.