The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) are two competing visions of global development that reflect the changing geopolitical landscape of the 21st century. They both have their impacts and implications for the political and economic relations between China and the U.S., the two largest economies and superpowers in the world.
The BRI is a global development strategy launched by China in 2013, which aims to connect Asia, Africa, Europe and beyond through a network of infrastructure projects, trade agreements and cultural exchanges. The BRI has been seen as a way for China to expand its influence and economic interests in the world, especially in regions where the U.S. has traditionally been dominant.
However, the BRI has also faced criticism and opposition from some countries and regions who view it as a threat to their sovereignty, security and environmental standards.
The IMEC is an alternative initiative to the BRI that was launched in September 2023 by India, USA, Saudi Arabia, UAE, European Union, Italy, France and Germany. The IMEC aims to bolster economic development by fostering connectivity and economic integration between Asia, the Arabian Gulf, and Europe. The IMEC comprises of an Eastern Corridor connecting India to the Gulf region and a Northern Corridor connecting the Gulf region to Europe. It will include a railway and ship-rail transit network and road transport routes.
The IMEC is expected to have significant implications for the political and economic dynamics of Asia, Middle East and Europe. It could create new opportunities for growth, development and stability in these regions. It could also challenge China’s dominance and influence in these regions.
The IMEC could increase the competition between the U.S. and China for markets, resources and influence in these regions. The U.S. could use the IMEC as a platform to showcase its leadership role and its commitment to its allies and partners.
According to the fact sheet released by the White House, the U.S. supports the IMEC as a way to promote high-quality standards of governance, social responsibility and environmental protection in global development. The U.S. also sees the IMEC as a way to enhance its trade and investment opportunities, address common challenges such as climate change, terrorism and pandemics, and strengthen its strategic partnerships with India, Europe and the Arab countries. The U.S. President Joe Biden has also projected the IMEC as “a big deal” and a “game-changing investment” for the U.S.
The IMEC could also create opportunities for cooperation between the U.S. and China on areas of mutual interest or concern in these regions. The U.S. and China could work together to address common challenges such as climate change, terrorism or pandemics. They could also find ways to coordinate or harmonize their development initiatives to avoid duplication or conflict.
The IMEC could also influence the perceptions and attitudes of both sides toward each other. The U.S. could see China as a more constructive or cooperative partner if it respects the principles and standards of the IMEC or joins some of its projects. China could see the U.S. as a more respectful or trustworthy partner if it acknowledges China’s legitimate interests or engages in dialogue with it.
China could view the IMEC as an attempt to contain its rise or undermine its interests. According to some analysts, China is skeptical of the IMEC and sees it as a rival or hostile initiative that aims to isolate China from its neighbors and markets. China believes that the IMEC is not only an economic initiative but also a political and strategic one that reflects the US-led alliance system against China’s rise. China is concerned that the IMEC could undermine its interests and influence in regions where it has invested heavily in building infrastructure, trade, and cultural ties. China is also worried that the IMEC could create divisions and conflicts among countries in Asia, Middle East and Europe by imposing higher standards and conditions for cooperation.
The U.S. has been wary of China’s growing clout and ambitions through the BRI. The U.S. has accused China of engaging in predatory lending practices, undermining international norms and values, and pursuing strategic advantages at the expense of its partners. The U.S. has also sought to counter China’s influence by strengthening its alliances and partnerships, promoting its own vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, and imposing tariffs and sanctions on Chinese goods and entities.
The U.S. believes that the BRI is not only an economic initiative, but also a political and strategic one that aims to reshape the global order in China’s favor. The U.S. is concerned that the BRI could enable China to gain access to critical resources, markets, technologies, and military bases in strategic locations, while undermining the sovereignty, security, and standards of its partners. The U.S. is also worried that the BRI could erode its influence and credibility in regions where it has invested heavily.
The U.S. is not the member of IMEC because it is not a part of the G20, which is the group of countries that launched the IMEC project. The G20 is a forum of 19 countries and the European Union that aims to promote international economic cooperation and address global challenges.
The U.S. has its own group of allies and partners, such as NATO, that it prefers to work with on security and economic issues. The U.S. also has its own vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, which is different from the IMEC’s focus on Asia, Middle East and Europe. However, the U.S. supports the IMEC as a way to counter China’s influence and challenge its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is seen by the U.S. as a threat to its interests and values. The U.S. also sees the IMEC as a way to enhance its trade and investment opportunities, address common challenges such as climate change, terrorism and pandemics, and strengthen its strategic partnerships with India, Europe and the Arab countries.
The BRI and IMEC are two contrasting visions of global development that reflect the changing geopolitical landscape of the 21st century. They both have their impacts and implications for the political and economic relations between China and the U.S., the two largest economies and superpowers in the world. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and challenges.
As these two initiatives evolve and interact with each other in the coming years, they will shape the future of these regions and these relations. The outcome will depend largely on how the two sides manage their differences and expectations, and whether they can find a balance between competition and cooperation. The BRI and IMEC are not only economic projects, but also political and strategic ones that reflect the aspirations and values of their partners. Therefore, they require not only investment and infrastructure, but also dialogue and trust. The BRI and IMEC are not only challenges, but also opportunities for creating a more connected, prosperous and stable world. Therefore, they deserve not only scrutiny, but also engagement from all stakeholders. The BRI and IMEC are not only visions, but also realities that affect the lives of billions of people. Therefore, they demand not only analysis, but also action from all participants.