The European Union, the world’s largest economic bloc, just announced “Global Gateway”, a project that directly challenges China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, a vast trillion-dollar network of roads, railways, ports, canals, airports, trade centers, and other infrastructure projects to link much of the world and China.
“We want to turn Global Gateway into a trusted brand around the world,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said during the annual State of the Union address Wednesday. “We will build Global Gateway partnerships with countries around the world. We want investments in quality infrastructure, connecting goods, people and services around the world.
She didn’t shy away from her primary target — China, which has been criticized by the West for extending its strategic reach and creating debt dependence through its multibillion-dollar infrastructure and investment scheme.
Now, two of the world’s top three biggest economies are looking to achieve both geopolitical and economic clout through initiatives that are unprecedented in their cost, scale, and multinational involvement. The EU is even seeking to develop a logo and “catchy brand name” for its Global Gateway, which further underlines its effort to win the hearts and minds of the international community.
We can expect that these won’t be the last megaprojects of their kind. The conspicuously absent United States has already hit back with similar plans: The Blue Dot Network, announced in 2019 with Japan and Australia, and the Build Back Better World (B3W), led by the G7 nations of the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan.
For its part, Chinese analysts quoted in state media have shrewdly framed these Western proposals as flattering imitations “likely inspired by the success of the BRI and will serve to fully demonstrate the effectiveness of Chinese-initiated global infrastructure program”.
It looks like power in the 21st century will be determined less by the usual metric of armies and territory and more by economic heft and sociocultural links with the most nations. Of course, that bring its own risks and problems, both environmental and human.