Learning from the Competition - China's, Japan's and the EU's Infrastructure Connectivity Rule Setting in Asia

Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Freiburg (Germany), Occasional Paper Series
Occasional Paper No. 45 (June 2020)

In the race for infrastructure connectivity across Asia, several states have established initiatives to provide funding for developing countries. Chief among these are the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the Japanese Partnership for Quality Infrastructure (PQI). The most recent addition to these competing multilateral initiatives in connectivity is the European Union's 2019 policy guideline “Connecting Europe and Asia: Building blocks for an EU Strategy.” Existing analyses have identified geopolitical competition as the driver behind these competing initiatives. In this paper, we propose an alternative explanation. Assessing the incremental design of China’s, Japan’s and the EU’s connectivity strategies, we find evidence that policy learning is taking place among the three actors. In competitive rule setting for Asia’s infrastructure connectivity, China has acted as the first mover, followed by Japan and the EU. We distinguish between support to infrastructure connectivity along four dimensions: (1) the breadth of their infrastructure support, based on the actors’ definitions; (2) the comparative advantage the support is based on; (3) the character of resources provided; and (4) the degree of bilateralism/multilateralism.

Lukas Maximilian