The US State Department states that any nation can join the BDN and the certification standards are judged on a “project-by-project basis.”
What is the Blue Dot Network?
Representatives from the United States, Japan and Australia announced the Blue Dot Network at the Indo-Pacific Business Forum in Thailand in November 2019. The BDN partners say they want their project to “certify infrastructure projects around the world that meet high standards of transparency, sustainability, and developmental impact.”
The architects of the BDN also hope to give more confidence to private investors who want to help tackle the critical need for infrastructure development in the coming years, which is worth an estimated US$94 trillion.
An alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative?
Some argue that the Blue Dot Network is a geopolitical countermeasure to the Belt and Road Initiative, which Beijing has pursued since the project was first announced by President Xi Jinping in 2013.
Furthermore, the three partnering nations of the BDN – the US, Japan and Australia – are all members of the Quad and are considered adversaries by Beijing with some interpreting the color choice of the BDN as a jab at the red of the BRI.
Goals of the BDN
Terms such as “standards” and “transparency” often accompany discussions of the BDN by its promoters, which is one of the main criticisms of the BRI: lack of transparency. Beijing has been accused of executing “debt-trap diplomacy” by funding costly infrastructure projects in developing countries and seizing assets when that country fails to pay.
If that is the case, which Beijing denies, the BDN may exist to certify the standards of certain projects and deter investors or governments from making bad deals they may result in the loss of capital or sovereignty.
The Blue Dot network may also give governments in the Indo-Pacific a private alternative to Beijing as that region tries to address its infrastructure needs. As more lawmakers in the region grow wary of Chinese influence, the BDN may give those leaders a more open option to investment. The BDN may also force Beijing to become more transparent with the financing of BRI projects as it adapts to compete.
The Blue Dot Network is still in its infancy and the momentum behind it was eclipsed by the global COVID-19 pandemic soon after it was made public.
Much of the details of the new plan are unknown and, so far, no nation has partnered with the US, Japan and Australia in adhering to its certification standards – the specifics of which are still veiled. The US State Department states that any nation can join the BDN and the certification standards are judged on a “project-by-project basis.”
Former White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien has compared the BDN to the Michelin Guide, which rates restaurants.
Beijing has yet not officially commented on the Blue Dot Network. A month after the BDN was announced, The Global Times, a nationalistic tabloid considered to be a mouthpiece for the Chinese Communist Party, referred to the BDN as “Washington’s Delusion” and accused the US of “defaming” the BRI.
While the Blue Dot Network was conceived during the Trump administration, it appears that the Biden administration will continue to develop the plan. This would appear to indicate a bipartisan belief that Beijing poses the greatest national security threat to the US.
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