Belt and Road
The G7 grouping has set aside a paltry amount for its proposed infrastructure development straddling geographies. That in itself is a glaring weakness. Image Credit: Reuters

Some aspects of the ongoing skirmishes between major powers represent setbacks for far deeper conflicts with strategic and economic dimensions that will tilt the global balance of power. It will lead to the emergence of new powers and the decline of others still taking great efforts to maintain their former influence.

The Ukrainian war and tensions around Taiwan are only the visible part of conflicts that will gain dangerous dimensions. The decision taken by G7 at its meeting held the end of June to allocate $200 billion to create a global infrastructure partnership, which will include developing countries, is an example of what is going on.

The decision appears to have been taken as a response to China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative, which has gone a long way towards connecting China to global markets within a vast network of land and sea routes to control international trade - and which frightens Western countries.

The allocations by the G7 seem modest and constitutes only 10 per cent of the $2 trillion allocated to the Chinese project. It is obvious that the capabilities of the two projects vary greatly and the prospects for dominance also differ. This in turn gives China an advantage along with other factors that will be taken up later.

Playing at hindering

This has prompted Western countries to try to hinder the Chinese project using non-economic factors by creating crises in the trajectories of the Belt and Road project, whether through conflicts or through provoking unrest, as happened in the Pakistani port of Gwadar, which is of great importance to the Chinese initiative.

Speaking about the prospects of both projects, no doubt each has its strengths and weaknesses. The strength of the Belt and Road lies in the volume of huge investments allocated, which will lead to speedy implementation of associated projects. This is because the Chinese funding prowess makes for a great advantage, as happened in Africa and Asia, in addition to the cheap cost of implementing projects.

Its weaknesses lie in the security issues facing its implementation processes, some of which are located in unstable countries and regions dominated by permanent conflicts.

Too late, and with limited funding

As for the Western project, its strength lies in its historical dominance of monetary transactions and in the political and military influences enjoyed by its countries. Nevertheless, what is significantly lacking are funds, as the amount allocated does not mean anything when it comes to the scale of what is hoped to attain.

A large part of international trade routes pass through developing countries, which are still recovering and improving from the Colonial past, while viewing China as a country that can be dealt with more fairly and equally.

These factors prompted US news portal Politico to say that ‘the summit of the Group 7 of the West’s most economically advanced countries failed on all fronts’. It added that the decisions approved by the leaders express a ‘controversial self-defeat’, which means that the rapid progress of the Chinese project and the very slow progress of the Western one will lead to an intensification of the conflict in the coming years.

This will not be limited to economic and trade aspects, but could take serious turns that will lead to more conflicts.

An independent path for GCC

What about the Gulf region and the Arab world in general? It is clearly noticed that the strong Arab approach is aimed at protecting national interests through more independent decisions to serve their own national interests. As evidenced by the recent focus on Belt and Road projects by the Gulf Arab countries, where some of the project’s investments have been transferred from Asian countries to the GCC, which enjoy sophisticated infrastructure and high-end services.

This is why it is important to make proper decisions that serve development issues in various countries, since the world has become more pluralistic and offers limitless options thanks to competition between emerging powers and others trying to maintain the remnants of their declining economic influence. Not just a decline in their economic power, but also due to a number of mistakes that have alienated many allies and created a deep crisis of confidence between them.