In a Friday phone call between President Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson which focused on China and the coordinated sanctions actions the US and UK took this week in response to human rights abuses targeting China's Uighur minority, Biden floated the idea of initiating a Western "democratic" rival to China's 'Belt and Road' project.
Referring to the ambitious multi-trillion dollar infrastructure initiative which President Xi Jingping has spent years negotiating and pursuing, Biden told reporters of the phone call that, "We talked about China and the competition they’re engaging in in the Belt and Road Initiative."
"I suggested we should have, essentially, a similar initiative coming from the democratic states, helping those communities around the world that, in fact, need help," he added.
The words came a day after the first presidential press conference he's held since entering office, during which the president said he desired competition with China as opposed to confrontation.
"China has an overall goal—and I don’t criticize them for the goal—but they have an overall goal to become the leading country in the world," Biden said Thursday. "That’s not going to happen on my watch."
Friday's reference to a US-backed 'Belt and Road rival' further comes ahead of next week's unveiling of the White House's multitrillion-dollar plan for a major US infrastructure reboot and upgrade.
To review, China's BRI has involved over 100 countries signing agreements with China on huge undertakings that's seen China-constructed railways, highways, ports and new energy plants dot Eurasia. It's included some 2,600 projects at a cost of an estimated $3.7 trillion.
The BRI has been called "China's trade superhighway".
The BRI is a big part of what the US president had in mind when in his Thursday remarks he forecast that he expects "steep, steep competition" with China for many years to come, which is headed by a man "doesn’t have a democratic with a small ‘D’ bone in his body" - according to Biden's assessment of Xi.