At G7, Tensions on China Overshadow Infrastructure Plan

Katie Ramirez
June 13, 2021

China denies all accusations of abuse in the Xinjiang region. It remains unclear whether the document will call out China by name, according to people familiar with the talks.

"We're pushing for being specific on areas like Xinjiang where forced labor is taking place", the official said, referring to the territory in northwest China where tens of thousands of Uyghurs have been forcibly transferred from their homes and assigned to factories across nine provinces in a range of supply chains including electronics, textiles and automobiles.

Group of Seven leaders and Queen Elizabeth II (C) pose for a group photo before the leaders' evening dinner and reception on June 11, 2021 in Cornwall, England.

Eight years ago, Chinese President Xi Jinping's dream project - BRI - was formally launched in Kazakhstan.

G7 leaders have pledged to adopt a bold new US-inspired global infrastructure initiative as a rival plan to China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to offer an alternative option to low- and middle-income countries, including India, to finance their infrastructure needs.

It's the first section that has been a struggle for diplomats seeking consensus.

China's Belt and Road Initiative has helped build roads and ports in several countries, but has been criticised for burdening those countries with debts.

The EU, for instance, previously struck an investment deal with China, although it later put the agreement on hold amid rising tensions with Beijing. The G-7, back in action since the start of the Biden administration, is oriented towards greater cooperation.

French President Emmanuel Macron slapped in the face
The incident was caught on camera as a bearded man wearing glasses and a face mask slapping the president hard on his left cheek. The man was swiftly swarmed by security. "We have no further comment to make at this stage", said an Elysée official on Tuesday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was coy on Saturday when addressing China, saying the European Union needs "everyone in the world" in order to "work together, especially in the areas of climate protection and biodiversity".

On Saturday's foreign policy agenda, this year's coup in Myanmar and crackdown on pro-democracy supporters in Belarus are expected to figure, alongside tensions with Russian Federation and China.

"I'll tell you (about it) after I've delivered it", Biden told reporters Friday.

The leaders are also set to issue new commitments on climate change, including financial aid for the developing world, in the buildup to the UN's COP26 environmental summit in Scotland in November. The plan would involve raising hundreds of billions in public and private money to help close a $40 trillion infrastructure gap in needy countries by 2035, the official said.

The BRI comprises development and investment initiatives in transport, construction, aviation, energy, and telecommunication sectors, encompassing many countries in East Asia, Central Asia, South and Southeast Asia, and Europe.

"While we are still finalizing the format for the meeting with President Putin and his delegation, we can confirm a few details, including the plan for both a working session and a smaller session, as well as a solo press conference by President Biden following the meeting", a White House official told reporters in a statement on Saturday. It would be funded in part with existing US contributions to overseas infrastructure financing through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The US official said the two leaders "recognise that a lot of partners in the developing world are being taken advantage of in some ways through investments that they received with the Belt and Road and other financing deals".

Unlike the Belt and Road Initiative, which has been criticized for its opaque bidding processes and reliance on low-interest loans that have put borrowing nations at the mercy of Chinese banks and contractors, the US -led initiative would aim to be "values-driven, transparent and sustainable", the administration official said. A U.S. senior administration official said that Build Back Better for the World "won't just be an alternative to the BRI, but we believe will beat the BRI by offering a higher-quality choice".

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