Japan’s advice on BRI not particularly welcome

By Zhang Yi Source:Global Times Published: 2019/3/19 20:27:38

Japan will use its G20 chairmanship to propose new guidelines on development assistance when it hosts the summit in June, according to a Nikkei report. The report went further as saying that the move aims at checking China's growing influence through the Belt and Road Initiative it has proposed.

China is perhaps the only country willing and able to provide public goods by investing in massive infrastructure projects to inject growth incentives across the world. But from its very beginning, China's initiative for development cooperation was touted as a challenge to international institutions and rules. 

Some Western countries have tried to confine China's activities with their so-called rules, and Japan is no exception. With the new guidelines on development assistance that would stress openness, transparency and sustainability, Japan wants to set rules for the other G20 countries, especially China. But is Japan qualified as a rule maker?  

China is not a violator of these principles: China has been making great efforts to ensure that BRI cooperation remains transparent, adheres to market principles and abides by laws and regulations. It would be Japan's illusion to direct China's path.

To accommodate its own development needs with those of the countries along the routes of the BRI, China tries to make sure that its investments meet international standards, as the BRI also needs committed partners to bring it into full play.

Japan's attitude toward BRI has been swaying. Tokyo used to be one of the most vehement critics of the initiative, while it also showed interest in joining in the past two years as China-Japan relations began to thaw. Last year Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe oversaw the signing of 500 business deals and a $30 billion currency swap agreement during his visit to China.  

But Japan has always been on high alert over China's infrastructure projects and came up with its own initiative, the Partnership for Quality Infrastructure, that works together with the Asian Development Bank, a counterweight to the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

Japan's wariness toward BRI stems from geostrategic considerations. Japan sees it as China's strategy to enhance regional influence and squeeze Tokyo. Meanwhile, Japan must walk a tightrope seeking not to displease its ally, the US. 

While Italy is set to join the BRI, analysts believe it will immediately cool relations with the US. "Italy can't keep both China and Donald Trump happy," a Bloomberg article underscored. Japan certainly would not like to be caught up in such a dilemma. 

But Japan also risks losing out on the vast opportunities presented by BRI. China is willing to see Japan join the initiative as long as Japan itself really wants to. Otherwise, it is not Japan's business to make rules for China: Only China can say what its investment standards should be.

Posted in: OBSERVER

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