The recent announcement that Australia, Japan, India and America will join forces to offer an alternative to China’s controversial ‘belt and road’ initiative, is a giant step on many fronts.
In a joint statement with officials from the US and Japan, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said the partnership recognised that more support was needed to enhance peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific.
“We share the belief that good investments stem from transparency, open competition, sustainability, adhering to robust global standards, employing the local workforce, and avoiding unsustainable debt burdens,” it said.
No where is considered and controlled development needed more then in the Indo-Pacific, where access to seas and airways are hotly contested and predatory loan practices designed to create leverage through debt are rife.
Montenegro has been seen as a case study of all-what-is-wrong with Chinese loans for infrastructure. With scores of Chinese workers are building a state-of-the-art highway through some of the roughest terrain in southern Europe.
A Chinese loan for the first phase has sent Montenegro’s debt soaring and forced the government to raise taxes, partially freeze public sector wages and end a benefit for mothers to get its finances in order.
Despite those measures, Montenegro’s debt is expected to approach 80 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) this year and the International Monetary Fund says the country cannot afford to take on any more debt to finish its ambitious project.
However, what may be of most interest is how publicly Australia, Japan, India and America are now showing an active unified force. As previously they had only termed themselves through as The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QSD, also known as the Quad) and described themselves as only combining for informal strategic dialogue.
Taking a step back and looking at this announcement, with the lack of funding figures given. I feel this is more showing a united front against China, than of any genuine alternative to the near Trillion US Dollars being offered by Bejing.