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The backstory: China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) just turned 10. Just a little refresher – the BRI is China's plan to connect Asia, Europe and Africa through a network of infrastructure projects, like building highways and railways. This project has gotten support from over 150 countries and organizations and has seen an investment of approximately US$1 trillion over the last 10 years. During this period, China has been pushing full steam ahead with the BRI, seeing it as an alternative to the US-led global system.
The G7 came out with its own initiative, the Build Back Better World (B3W), as a counter to China’s BRI in June of 2021. The EU also has its response to the BRI, known as the Global Gateway project. The bloc introduced this initiative at the end of 2021, and it's all about making worldwide infrastructure development more transparent and strategic.
More recently: Last week, Beijing hosted the Belt and Road Forum, which many countries involved in the project attended, including Russian President Putin and Taliban representatives of Afghanistan. Chinese President Xi Jinping criticized some Western countries' attempts to reduce their reliance on the Chinese economy during a speech at the event.
The development: The EU's Global Gateway Forum is just around the corner, set for October 25-26 in Brussels. The EU has invited leaders from many countries, including Bangladesh, Senegal, Namibia and Moldova. There's also a chance that Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo might join in. The European Commission is planning discussions and deals on several fronts during the event, including education and research, transportation, digital infrastructure and more. Big EU companies like Orange, Allianz, Alstom, Danone, Enel, Siemens and Telefonica are likely to be part of this, too.
"We stand against unilateral sanctions, economic coercion, decoupling and supply chain disruption," said President Xi last week at the Belt and Road Forum.
"This is the difference between President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative and other projects pursued by countries with a colonialist flavor," Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying.
"In the context of the Global Gateway, the Commission is currently looking into possible co-financing mechanisms and guarantee instruments," said Stefan De Keersmaecker, a European Commission spokesperson, last month regarding the EU financing sustainable aviation fuel projects in Africa.