Colliding Scripts in Asia? Comparing China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the EU Global Gateway Strategy
China’s growing engagement in Eastern Europe through its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is often expected to challenge the EU approach to promoting regional development. We argue that BRI is not intended to export the China Model, and that it challenges the EU approach on the programmatic rather than implementation level. While both approaches subscribe to inclusive growth and global free trade, the BRI’s “no strings attached” policy contrasts with the EU’s rule- and value-based approach. We found decoupling between programmatic and implementation levels in both approaches. Brussels lacks the willingness and capacity to make countries adhere to its development script, reducing conflicts with the BRI on the implementation level. However, the BRI applies “conditionality through the backdoor”, thereby supporting development at home rather than abroad. While the potential for collision appears low, the legitimacy of both scripts suffers, as neither delivers on its promise to support inclusive growth.