Commentary: G7 initiative to counter China’s Belt and Road heats up competition – for the better

The DSR was introduced in 2015 to support the expansion and internationalisation of its technology companies, with investments from the “development of the digital service sector, such as cross-border e-commerce, smart cities, telemedicine, and internet finance,” to accelerating “technological progress including computing, big data, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, blockchain and quantum computing.”

A key aspect of Beijing’s technological cooperation with Southeast Asian countries is in information and telecommunication technologies (ICT). Through the DSR, Beijing has invested in ICT-focused telecommunications and digital infrastructure, as well as fibre optic terrestrial and submarine cable networks in this region. 

CAN G7 PARTNERSHIP COUNTER BELT AND ROAD?

Both initiatives will face challenges in governance and navigating local regulations in recipient countries.

Here, the Chinese approach may work in the BRI’s favour. As one of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s most ambitious international projects, BRI benefits from the straightforward processes of a strong central government in terms of policies and resources.

But in practice, Chinese players have encountered challenges on the ground, and have had to become more sensitive and adaptable to local conditions and more mindful of local politics. The increased capital investments can have enormous consequences on the host countries, including exacerbating competition among power elites on a micro-level.

On the flip side, the Western approach to investments which tends towards more formalistic application of a uniform set of rules at the three levels of international or bilateral cooperation, domestic regulation and private transactions could end up a strength, as it lends potential to building a more uniform and common approach to global infrastructure standards financed by PGII.