Belt and Road initiative brings challenges, opportunities to US, experts

The United States should be proactively engaged in the Beijing-led Belt and Road initiative as part of efforts to realize its "America First" policy, according to experts.

Despite potential challenges, the proper involvement in the Belt and Road initiative, which focuses on infrastructure connectivity and common prosperity, will bring the US some opportunities in areas of economy, politics and infrastructure construction, Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Institute of Analysis of Global Security, a think tank based in Washington DC, said recently.

Economically, the Belt and Road initiative provides massive sources of "soft infrastructure", which are beneficial to America's manufacturing, trade and investment, said Cohen. Soft infrastructure refers to the services which are required to maintain the economic, cultural and social standards of a nation.

Meanwhile, it brings a series of systematic risks including a lack of capital flows and the discordance in the relations between the state sector and the private sector, said Cohen. Politically, the involvement in the Belt and Road initiative poses challenges to the US, because the initiative helps increase China's influence over the related countries in the Asia-Pacific region, where the US has great interests and commitments to the regional allies. The challenges would intensify as President Donald Trump has shifted focus to domestic affairs, the researcher noted.

When it comes to the Belt and Road initiative, there are still some uncertainties about whether the participants could enjoy a fair business environment under the framework, according to Cohen. The US is now facing great challenges from China in the fields of telecommunication, smart city building and e-commerce, while it takes a big lead over China in cyber security technologies. But Cohen said that mutual trust between the US and China could be built through technical means even though China has not done enough to protect data privacy and intellectual property rights.

Previously, Daniel Runde, director of the Project on Prosperity and Development of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, described the Belt and Road initiative a "good idea", saying that the US could use it to consolidate its leadership in the region.

Runde encouraged the US to take part in the Asian affairs by joining the Belt and Road initiative properly amid the trend of urbanization and ageing population and the lack of infrastructure in Asia.

Over the years, China has risen as a big competitor for the US in soft power. The country has long called for reforms in the International Monetary Fund and led the establishment of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, reflecting its motives of seeking more job and trade opportunities. In light of it, the US and its allies should join the Belt and Road initiative in order to shape Asia as a fair market for American-made products and services, Runde said. This process could be formed through the involvement of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank, which could compete with the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank as capital providers for the infrastructure projects in the region, noted Runde.

The US should also make an economic strategy compatible with its national security goals to maintain its competitiveness, and should take advantage of the import and export bank for its benefit in the international market, according to Runde.

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