Within months of taking office the Trump administration had declared its outright opposition to the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) as part of a broader turn to “strategic competition” with China. Although not overtly framed as such, the US began to create policy alternatives. Alongside the BUILD Act and Prosper Africa these included the “Blue Dot Network” (BDN) the stated purpose of which was to assess and certify the “quality” of proposed infrastructure projects in terms of their potential viability, sustainability, as well as the transparency of procurement procedures. Established in cooperation with Japan and Australia the BDN would, it was said, make potential infrastructure projects more attractive to non-Chinese backers and implicitly frame BRI projects as sub-standard. While the Biden White House sought to distance itself from much of the Trump legacy the BDN remained within the Department of State’s portfolio and was relaunched in June 2021 under the auspices of the OECD. The article draws upon the literature assessing the impact of rankings and certification initiatives as well as studies of economic power. On the basis of this, it argues that although the BDN would appear from the former to have significant opportunities the “hard” and “soft” forms of economic power upon which it rests constitute an unstable amalgam that is likely to constrain the BDN’s capacities and prospects.
Bibliographical noteEpub ahead of print. Published online: 18 Aug 2021.
- Belt & Road Initiative
- Economic power