Joe Biden said he suggested to Boris Johnson in a phone call on Friday that they should have a massive infrastructure plan to rival China’s Belt and Road initiative.
The US president, in his second call with the British Prime Minister since taking office, said he was concerned that Beijing’s project would significantly expand its economic and political influence.
“I suggested we should have, essentially, a similar initiative, pulling from the democratic states, helping those communities around the world that, in fact, need help,” Mr Biden told reporters.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure scheme launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping involving development and investment initiatives that would stretch from East Asia to Europe.
Mr Biden said in his first full press briefing with reports on Thursday that the world was going through a “fourth industrial revolution” and that Beijing was looking to assert global dominance.
“I see stiff competition with China,” the president said. “They have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world, the wealthiest country in the world, and the most powerful country in the world. That’s not going to happen on my watch.”
Mr Biden plans to unveil a multi-trillion-dollar plan to upgrade US infrastructure next week. He said on Thursday this would ensure increased US investment in promising new technologies, such as quantum computing, artificial intelligence and biotechnology.
The comment made by Mr Biden did not appear on the UK Government’s readout of the call, but when asked about it later he said: “We talked a lot about the need also for Britain and the United States to, to stand together and deal with the whole notion of whether or not NATO stands together, whether we stand united, and whether or not I’d be able to come, and I hope I can, to NATO meeting – I think it’s in late June.”
He went on: “One of the things I suggested we do is – we talked about China and the competition they’re engaging in in the Belt and Road Initiative. And I suggested we should have, essentially, a similar initiative coming from the democratic states, helping those communities around the world.”
His predecessor Donald Trump spent his term trying to undermine China’s Belt and Road Initiative. However, in the last few years more than a dozen Latin American countries and 10 Caribbean nations have joined.
Meanwhile, nearly all Nato member states in Eastern and Southern Europe have associations with the project.
According to a Refinitiv database, as of mid-last year, over 2,600 projects at a cost of $3.7 trillion were linked to the initiative.