Connecting the Dots- the U.S.’ Answer to the BRI?
On November 4, the U.S., Japan, and Australia jointly announced the Blue Dot Network infrastructure program at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Bangkok, Thailand. While limited detail is available about the scope and focus of the program, the Blue Dot Network, named after the book “Pale Blue Dot” (referring to the Earth’s appearance from space) by famous astronomer Carl Sagan, is clearly an attempt to present an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative and to limit China’s influence in developing countries. It comes after the passage of the BUILD Act in 2018, which established the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (USIDFC). The USIDFC will expand upon the roles of the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), which itself will reorganize into the new USIDFC. CSIS writes that USIDFC is “absolutely” part of the U.S.’ response to China’s increasing global influence. Compared with China’s “large state-to-state lending” model, USIDFC “offers a private sector, market-based solution.” It can also support smaller businesses than China typically works with and help corporations within the country receiving aid, which China typically does not do. Unlike the BRI, the Blue Dot Network relies on private sector funding and has no lending capacity of its own. Rather than actively participating in infrastructure projects, the Blue Dot Network’s mission is to “vet and certify” infrastructure projects to ensure they promote “sustainable development.”