МОСКВА, 09 декабря 2021, Институт РУССТРАТ.

The European Union has decided to challenge China’s planetary infrastructure project «One Belt, One Road» by announcing its own megaplan, the Global Gateway, eight years late. Concerned not only about the «Chinese threat», but also about the disruption of international supplies due to COVID-19, the EU is ready to accumulate about €300 billion for the new initiative by 2027.

Thus, Brussels expects to grab at least part of the world’s transport flows from Beijing, betting on what it believes to be its competitive advantages — «green» energy, high quality standards, democratic values, equal partnership, inclusiveness and transparent financing.

However, if everything happens as it is stated now, the European Union will not stand a single chance of competing with the Chinese on equal terms. For this, it has not enough time, money and advanced technologies, but it does have too much bureaucracy, prejudice and hypocrisy. After all, the very name «Global Gateway» implies that the whole world, in the view of Europeans, will have to adapt to the standards, values and lifestyle of the Old World. As if they are still capable of captivating someone.

«Checkmate, Beijing!»

What is China doing now? It builds. A lot, with perseverance, everywhere on the planet. It builds bridges, lays roads, dams rivers for power plants, tries to introduce its 5G connection on remote continents. It invests money in these projects — more precisely, it provides bank loans to countries to finance projects (and many of them are already in debt ).

China needs all this not only for the modernisation of trade routes, when it could export products worth trillions of yuan along the New Silk Road — fast, safe and connected — collecting in return the needed resources from the world. In fact, «One Belt, One Road» turns entire continents into a «Chinese world».

The United States is trying to resist this. Belatedly, the weakening hegemon is going to announce in January 2022 its alternative to the Chinese project — «Build Back Better World» (B3W), first mentioned at the June G7 summit in Cornwall. Washington’s idea is as indoctrinated as the «Global Gateway»: anyone who wants to build a new bridge with the help of the Americans must swear to their values.

«Why can’t we be as good as them?!» EU officials probably exclaimed and, having overtaken the Americans for a month, launched their initiative. After reflecting on how they can compete with the Americans and the Chinese, the Europeans preferred to focus on «proven solutions».

Firstly, our projects will be environmentally friendly, they say. Secondly, our construction complex has the best quality standards. Thirdly, our loans are more transparent. Fourthly, we will make sure that there are as many female managers in joint firms as there are men. Fifthly, our fibre optic cables will not collect your personal data, unlike the «communist 5G» ones. And of course, all our ideas are simply permeated with molecules of freedom and democracy.

Checkmate, Beijing!.. Or not?

Deep periphery

In general, Europe’s concerns are understandable. It is not so easy to realise yourself as a deep periphery after so many centuries of planetary domination. Worse, this periphery is already unable to attract even a few people.

Its technologies have long lagged behind the advanced proposals from the Asia-Pacific countries. Its money is not able to challenge either the dollar or the yuan. Its ideals have long been discredited: first by colonialism and world wars, and today by an attempt at a new colonialism, with the promotion of dubious values. Until recently, Europe was not bad as an open-air museum — but in the conditions of the coronavirus, this is no longer relevant.

Now let’s imagine the government of some undeveloped state — say, Angola or Ecuador. It has big problems: energy problems, bad roads, few schools and an acute shortage of hospitals. And now two investors come to it: one from Beijing, the other from Brussels.

The first one offers to build everything that’s needed «cheap but good» for specific money, albeit in debt. The second one promises to start developing documentation in seven years, but in the meantime they want to test your country for democracy, inclusivity and carbon emissions — without this financing is impossible. And who will be chosen by Ecuador and Angola?

In order to even better understand the difference between «Global Gateway» and the Chinese «One Belt, One Road», it is enough to say that for the first one Europeans in seven years will try to scrape the bottom of the barrel of the private financial institutions with €300 billion, while the second one has already secured four times more (!) from state banks that do not require either «free elections» or «gender equality» from future debtors.

As for Russia, it is certainly advantageous for us to support a number of China’s global initiatives — without, however, falling into its debt trap. At the same time, it is already clear that no «Global Gateway» will be connected to our country: “they have not come out as a democracy”.

But most importantly, Russia is able to develop its own infrastructure projects — and not only on its territory, but also at least in the post-Soviet space. As was proved by the gas «streams» and the Crimean Bridge, we have the strength, means and competence for this — it remains only to show the will.

Институт международных политических и экономических стратегий Русстрат

(@russtrat)

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