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Besting the BRI

Oxford Analytica

On July 12, EU member states approved plans to launch a global infrastructure project to counter China’s BRI. Member states have asked the European Commission to spend the next nine months developing a plan containing “high impact and visible projects” to rival the BRI.
 
Efforts to respond to Beijing's BRI are not new; a range of initiatives has existed for several years. However, two developments have been driving Western governments to join efforts in countering the BRI.  First, the continued enlargement of the BRI, China's global geostrategic influence and Beijing's increasing authoritarianism and coercive diplomacy have worried Western governments, adding political salience and increasing the political will to react accordingly. Second, the current US administration strongly values the idea of joining efforts with partners to counter China. 

The Commission is expected to present concrete projects to enhance the EU’s global geo-economic influence by March 2022. Though all member states in principle support an EU global infrastructure initiative, its priorities in terms of geographical focus and investment look set to be a source of division. Arguably the biggest challenge will be to come up with effective branding and communications, a major driving force behind the BRI's success, enabling the Chinese Communist Party to use historical memories of the Silk Road to appeal to partners' imagination and emotions. Europe, on the other hand, would struggle to use its history of global interaction to an equally positive extent

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