On October 18, 2018, the European Union (EU) presented its connectivity strategy for Eurasia to Asian partners at the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Brussels. The document, issued in September, provides a comprehensive response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with serious implications for China-U.S. relations.
The strategy states clearly that Europe wants to collaborate with Beijing in addressing infrastructure needs in the Euro-Asian area. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has estimated that Asia faces a need for $26 trillion worth of infrastructure investment until 2030. In this context, Europe welcomes China’s connectivity initiative, though it would like BRI projects to comply with the financial, environmental, social, and labor standards promoted by the West. At the same time, the EU document makes clear that Brussels is ready to cooperate with the U.S. in containing those elements of China’s BRI – such as the opaque financial deals and tendering processes – which are not in line with Western-defined principles and standards.
Thus, expect Europe’s connectivity strategy to be used by both Beijing and Washington in their tussle for global primacy, with both parties framing Europe’s declaration as codified support for their policies.
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