Australia, the US, India and Japan are talking about plans for a regional scheme to counterbalance China’s growing influence, a report says. A US official spoke of an “alternative” rather than a “rival” plan.
Australia, the United States, India and Japan have been discussing a joint regional infrastructure scheme designed to be a rival to China’s multibillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative, the Australian Financial Review reported on Monday.
The paper cited an unnamed US official as saying the plan would possibly be on the agenda at talks in Washington this week between Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and US President Donald Trump, although he said the scheme was not yet ready to be announced officially.
The official was quoted as preferring to describe the plan as an “alternative” and not a “rival” to the Chinese “One Belt, One Road” scheme, under which Beijing has been funding major infrastructure projects, including ports, rail networks and roads, in more than 60 countries.
“No one is saying China should not build infrastructure,” the official was quoted as saying. “China might build a port which, on its own, is not economically viable. We could make it economically viable by building a road or rail line linking that port.”
The US, in particular, views the Chinese scheme as an attempt to increase Beijing’s global clout.
News of the planned joint initiative comes shortly after the same countries agreed to revive four-way talks known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD), first devised in the 1990s but later abandoned. The quartet held talks on the revival in Manila on the sidelines of the November ASEAN and East Asia Summits.
Beijing has expressed its disapproval at the renewal of the QSD, which it sees as a bid to contain its economic advances.
Turnbull is to fly to Washington on Wednesday for a three-day visit at the head of a delegation containing a number of business executives. The meeting with Trump would be the fourth time they have held official talks in less than a year.
Turnbull was one of the first world leaders to congratulate Trump on winning last year’s presidential election.