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Silk Road Headlines_22nd November, 2019

The Blue Dot Network was announced by the US, Japan and Australia on November 4 [What is Blue Dot Network and is it really the West’s response to Belt & Road?]. The aim of this initiative is to ‘evaluate and certify nominated infrastructure projects based upon adherence to commonly accepted principles and standards to promote market-driven, transparent, and financially sustainable infrastructure development in the Indo-Pacific region and around the world’. No details are available so far, but as Peter McCawley notes ‘it seems clear that one of the main aims of establishing the new network is to counter China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) international investment program in Asia and Africa’ [Connecting the dots on the Blue Dot Network]. His assessment is that ‘the Blue Dot Network scheme’s emphasis on setting good investment standards, and of refusing support for bad projects, will not fall on deaf ears’. However, McCawley also writes that the impact will remain limited because the BDN will not change the fact that China is the main source of infrastructure financing. According to Chris Devonshire-Ellis, ‘if the Blue Dot Network is not actually in the business of providing guarantees, then it is destined to be just a piece of anti-China, Western PR hot air, and another stick which Washington in particular can use to beat up China about “global quality standards” along its Belt & Road’ [What Is The “Blue Dot” Infrastructure Network?].

How should the European Union and its member states respond to the Blue Dot Network? The BDN could be an opportunity to establish new standards for infrastructure development. This is good, but a major weakness of the BDN is that the initiative is not driven by developing countries and that it has the appearance of being aimed primarily at countering China’s growing influence. If Europe is to become involved it should be part of a process that also involves a major role for developing countries as well as China. After all, the developing countries are the main stakeholders and China is likely to remain a major source of infrastructure financing.

By Clingendael

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