B3W versus BRI: For US, Countering China’s Infra Swagger Won’t Be Easy. For New Delhi, Biden’s Plan Not Enough

B3W versus BRI: Joe Biden’s B3W proposal at G7
President Joe Biden

G7 family photos were cute. The US first lady even joked, “I feel like we are at a wedding.” But for all that party feel, the angst at the group’s core was unmissable – it was and will continue to be concerned about its relative relevance in the face of China’s rise. Since the seven countries first got together in the 1970s, their share of global GDP has halved, 40% from 80%.

America has stepped forward with a plan, supposedly the centrepiece of G7’s fightback: Build Back Better for the World. B3W is to take on China’s BRI. The idea is that Western democracies will finally moderate China’s infra swagger, by building on their own in developing economies.

This is a good idea, but it will take the same kind of unity and resolve that was seen in crafting the new world order after World War II. Currently, much of the push is coming from the Biden administration, other Western countries are less keen. Italy even joined the BRI in 2019 and shows little enthusiasm for a divorce. 

Also, Joe Biden does not enjoy the policy carte blanche of Xi Jinping, who can make policy at will and compel state-owned banks to provide financing, all without legislative battles.

India’s refusal to join BRI has been precise because of the exploitive terms and security downsides to which the Cornwall G7 summit is responding. India was also in attendance as a guest, and greater synergies with the G7 calculus are to its advantage. 

But today is the first anniversary of the Galwan valley clash and there can be a no grimmer reminder that when it comes right down to it, India will have to deal with China’s aggressions one on one. Let us not have delusions about any chivalrous rescue.