EU’s ‘Global Gateway’ and China’s BRI: Competitors or Collaborators?


The European Union (EU) has unveiled its “Global Gateway” strategy, aimed at enhancing interregional connectivity in five key areas: digital sector, climate and energy, transport, health, and education and research. The strategy is seen as a counterweight to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), despite its fragmented nature. The EU is also a geopolitical actor, with a sense of competition as it markets the Global Gateway to major partners across Southeast Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Western Balkans.

The EU’s Global Gateway strategy aims to create sustainable and reliable connections to address global challenges such as climate change, public health threats, and supply chain vulnerability. It differs from China’s BRI, which focuses on large-scale investment in infrastructure. The EU’s description of the Global Gateway suggests it will be more sustainable, transparent, secure, and viable than the BRI. It also promises a more robust funding model, including grants, soft loans, and guarantees, aiming to pool private sector investment.

The Global Gateway emphasizes expertise, financial assistance, and technical support, going beyond individual infrastructure projects and being both comprehensive and normative. The EU’s geopolitical standing has been increasingly challenged by China’s BRI and the Cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European Countries (China-CEEC).

The Global Gateway, an ambitious strategy by the EU, aims to align its member states towards a common strategic goal. However, it has barely realized its expected outcomes, with top EU diplomat Josep Borrell presenting no evidence of its meaningful impact on the EU’s partners. The Global Gateway’s potential outcomes and the protection of the rules-based multilateral system raise questions about its long-term success.

The India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) was announced at the G-20 Summit in India in September 2023, but geopolitical uncertainties and the EU’s weakness as a strategic actor raise questions about its prospects for success. The broader Global Gateway remains a farsighted ambition with no concrete capabilities in the near term. The principles underpinning the Global Gateway reflect the EU’s strategic autonomy, but it remains unclear how the EU could achieve its intended outcomes through the Global Gateway while also facing geopolitical rivalry.

The EU’s Global Gateway strategy is ill-founded as it focuses on supplanting China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This strategy is rooted in anxiety and insecurity due to its declining geopolitical and normative centrality. The EU should focus on enhancing global connectivity and prosperity instead of countering China. Politicians should consider making the Global Gateway compatible with other initiatives, rather than involving it in a zero-sum geopolitical rivalry.

The entire world, including the Global South, needs greater investments in infrastructure and connectivity. Many African, Latin American, Southeast Asian, and Western Balkan countries would prefer a variety of options, not just a mutually exclusive selection between Global Gateway and BRI. While they have different priorities and financing models, they share similar aims for improving global prosperity through enhanced connectivity, making Global Gateway and BRI potential complements.

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