News Eorupe— President Biden urged Western nations and Japan on Saturday to counter China’s growing economic and security influence by offering developing nations hundreds of billions in financing as an alternative to relying on Beijing for new roads, railways, ports and communication networks.
It was the first time the world’s richest nations had discussed such a direct challenge to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping’s overseas lending and investment project, which has now spread across Africa, Latin America and into Europe itself.
But the White House cited no financial commitments, and there is sharp disagreement among the United States and its allies about how to respond to China’s rising power.
Mr. Biden has made challenging China the centerpiece of a foreign policy designed to build up democracies around the world as a bulwark against creeping authoritarianism. Beijing, for its part, has pointed to the poor U.S. response to the pandemic and its divisive domestic politics as signs that democracy is failing.
It is far from clear that the wealthy democracies will be able to muster a comprehensive response like the one proposed by Mr. Biden, which the White House gave a name with roots in his presidential campaign theme — “Build Back Better for the World,’’ shortened to B3W, a play on China’s BRI.
Instead, the plan appeared to stitch together existing projects in the United States, Europe and Japan, along with an encouragement of private financing, with an emphasis on the environment, anti-corruption efforts, the free flow of information and the avoidance of future debt crises.
Mr. Biden used the meeting to advance his argument that the fundamental struggle in the post-pandemic era will be democracies versus autocracies. Officials emerging from the session said there was a clear division of opinion about how to take on China.
For Mr. Biden, the first test may be whether he can persuade the allies to reject participation in any projects that rely on forced labor. It is unclear, American officials said, what kind of language about rejecting goods or investments in such projects would be included in the meeting’s final communiqué, to be issued on Sunday.David Sanger