EDITORIAL: If only Group of Seven (G7) leaders had worried less about countering China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and done more to address climate control while they had a very good chance their embassies across the world wouldn’t be busy churning out press releases in a desperate attempt to salvage whatever little is still possible from what seems like a not-so-successful summit. Now they’ve got climate action activists blaming them of not putting their money where their mouth was, which obviously means that they weren’t too impressed when G7 only effectively regurgitated the old 2009 promise of raising a hundred billion dollars every year by 2020, somehow “through public and private means”, to help poor countries cut emissions.
This is a very stale promise and wasn’t it only very recently that poor countries were told that it wasn’t possible for rich countries to raise that kind of money in the stipulated timeframe because of all the ravages of the pandemic? Now, suddenly it’s back on the table because China continues to be America’s number-one concern in the Biden administration as well; proving once again that if there is a place where things remain the same no matter how much they change it is the world of international politics. And even though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who hosted the G7 summit over the weekend, smiled from ear to ear as he announced this promise on behalf of the seven richest countries in the whole world, there is realistically not much to suggest that “public and private means” can cough up a billion dollars every year, at least for a few more years to come, just so the poorer countries are not forced to continue burning coal for their fuel.
It wasn’t really a surprise to see US President Joe Biden take such a strong, almost accusatory, tone towards Beijing. He criticised the BRI, and pointed the finger very clearly at China’s alleged mistreatment of certain minority groups, in what turned out to be a very successful bid to rally popular G7 opinion against the Asian giant. Let’s not forget that Biden was vice president when President Obama decided to decouple from the Middle East and give primacy to Asia as America’s main area of focus for the future, and played an instrumental part in constructing the so-called Pivot to Asia around bolstering India to blunt China’s advances. That explains the usual spin about human rights and democratic freedoms even as Washington continues to back often harsh and completely non-democratic dispensations in many parts of the world simply because they do its bidding and buy the best, most expensive, weapons on the market.
Surely, the US could do better than put the spotlight on BRI because by doing so it otherwise risks decelerating a very vital process of economic integration, besides bulldozing grand plans of reviving the ancient Silk Route to generate agreeable profits through modern day commerce throughout the region and indeed beyond. Talk of a possible alternate initiative benefits nobody in the region; except perhaps the one country that was so excited about partnering with Uncle Sam in the policy to contain China. Pakistan stands to gain a lot from China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is just one part of BRI but perhaps the most important one. Therefore, it is in Pakistan’s interest to make most friends and neighbours understand the folly of the G7’s approach about this matter. There can be no denying that the best way to make South Asia truly prosperous is by engaging in increased trade among the region’s countries. And BRI seeks to do just that. Hopefully, such initiatives will not be subject to needless criticism just because they tend to upset some of the best made plans of some of the wealthiest countries in the world.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021