The paradox in us china relations

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The paradox in us china relations

The new Silk Road also reflects geopolitical ambitions; it shows how the Chinese leadership wants to shape the order of an area that represents more than half the world. Thus, to underestimate the importance of the belt and road plan would be a strategic mistake.

Not surprisingly, a project of this scale and ambition raises questions: Are the terms really attractive and transparent enough for foreign companies?

Can local populations be convinced that these projects are in their interest, despite in many cases having minor local input? Can China allay suspicions that, besides pouring concrete onto roads and into ports, the initiative might also mean very concrete political influence?

Attempts by European delegates at the Belt and Road Forum in May to raise these concerns and offer ideas for solutions have yet to be addressed. European diplomats confess And yet, the belt and road is too important to be ignored by Europe, or the US. The basic idea behind it is completely convincing: This is a challenge for all countries along the Silk Road, and at its other end in Europe.

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Without stronger respect for WTO procurement rules, the initiative risks becoming a vehicle for more protectionism, with SOEs as gatekeepers in third markets, and only foreign firms willing to accept preset conditions — such as forced technology transfer — being let in.

This is a positive development for both China and Europe. However, it is not quite the globalisation we are used to. For Europe, globalisation is open, market-oriented, based on and enforced by treaties equally applicable and negotiated by all, ensuring the free flow of goods and services, information and ideas.

What would globalisation with Chinese characteristics mean? A system where all roads lead to Beijing? Where informal new formats, with all outcomes orchestrated by China, sidestep formal negotiated treaties? Where economic favours are granted by informal bilateral arrangements, to be withdrawn in case of a hiccup in bilateral ties?

The paradox in us china relations

One, partner with China to close development gaps, while reinforcing the open, transparent and non-hierarchical world order, as seems to be working with the AIIB.

Two, Europe could offer its own concept to act as another friendly pole with the power to attract. Local content — that is, maximum participation by local labour, local companies and local products — could be the signature of connectivity, European-style.

Open tenders where the best offer wins, hopefully through a bid from the country where the project is built, would be another.

Labour safety, environmental standards and fair and sustainable financing would be a third. Like China, we need a narrative that is highly attractive across political, ideological and cultural divides.

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Why Europe and the US cannot afford to ignore China’s belt and road | South China Morning Post