U.S. President Biden walks at Philadelphia Airport to depart after his visit, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., March 9, 2023. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein
By Simon Lewis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Biden administration’s budget plan put forward on Thursday includes requests for billions of dollars of funding for the Indo-Pacific region aimed at countering China through infrastructure investments and other support for U.S. partners and allies in the region.
Acting Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources John Bass told reporters Washington’s competition with Beijing was “unusually broad and complex” and justified new forms of funding.
“Our approach towards the generational challenge posed by the PRC focuses on investing in our own domestic capabilities, aligning our efforts with those of allies and partners and competing with the PRC where interests and values differ,” Bass said, referring to the People’s Republic of China.
Biden’s budget proposal already faces stiff opposition from Republican lawmakers, although party leaders generally support efforts to counter China.
The budget proposal for 2024 includes $400 million for a fund to “counter specific problematic PRC behaviors globally,” according to a State Department fact sheet.
The administration is requesting mandatory spending, in addition to traditional discretionary funding, including $2 billion to support infrastructure projects and $2 billion to strengthen Indo-Pacific economies and support partners to push back against China, Bass said.
The budget also includes funding to expand the U.S. presence in the Pacific Islands, a region where Washington is competing with growing Chinese influence, he said.
The amount of funding is likely to pale in comparison with China’s own largess overseas through the Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, but officials say U.S. efforts are focused on “high-quality” infrastructure projects and would rally private sector investment.
“We are not looking to match China dollar for dollar, in part because any number of Chinese investments… don’t make a lot of commercial sense,” Bass said.