When the leaders of G-7 countries met in Carbis Bay last month, they announced a new Build Back Better World (B3W) plan to support infrastructure projects in low- and middle-income countries and respond to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
There are few details of exactly how the B3W partnership will work, and there are questions about whether focusing on infrastructure is the best way for the United States and its partners to counter China on the global stage. In this episode, Howard W. French joins David Dollar to discuss the challenges B3W will face and why the West would be better off competing in areas where it already has relative advantages.
DAVID DOLLAR: Hi, I’m David Dollar, host of the Brookings trade podcast Dollar & Sense. Today, my guest is Howard French, a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and a longtime journalist and observer of both China and Africa. He’s really the ideal person with whom to have a conversation about China’s activity in Africa. In particular, what caught my eye recently was an essay Howard wrote in The World Politics Review with the provocative title “Leave Infrastructure to China and Compete Where the West Has More to Offer.” This was after President Biden’s trip to Europe where he launched an initiative that’s seen as a counter to the Chinese Belt and Road. So these are the topics we are going to cover today. Welcome to the show, Howard.
HOWARD FRENCH: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be with you, David.
DOLLAR: So let’s start with the big picture on China’s infrastructure financing in the developing world, particularly Africa. You have written about the Belt and Road. How do you see the pros and cons of this Chinese initiative?
FRENCH: As being deeply intertwined.
You’re taking the DFC down a slippery slope of being a national security agency instead of a development agency.