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Much of Biden's upcoming trip to Asia will focus on countering China's influence

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Some other news now. President Biden heads to Asia on Thursday, where he will visit India and Vietnam. American strategists have spent a lot of time working to counter the influence of their common neighbor, China. And on this trip, the U.S. is paying attention to a big global institution, the World Bank. Here's NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: The World Bank was created in 1944 to help rebuild Europe after World War II. Over the years, its mission has evolved. The bank now funds a lot of programs on things like education, climate and public health around the globe.

DJ NORDQUIST: These institutions can play a critical role, helping to mitigate risk in developing countries and help them create stronger economic systems.

KHALID: That's DJ Nordquist. She previously represented the U.S. on the board of the World Bank. Historically, the U.S. has been the largest shareholder. But as China's economy has grown, it's begun to throw its weight around the World Bank, becoming the third-largest player. At the same time, it created an alternative model to lend money to low-income countries, especially in Africa and Asia.

NORDQUIST: China has created, you know, starting around 2014, a very serious, for lack of a better word, competitor to the World Bank.

KHALID: At the same time, the West kind of lost its focus on the World Bank. That's what Rachel Kyte says. She was the former envoy for climate change at the World Bank.

RACHEL KYTE: Over the last 20 to 30 years, the West, with the U.S. at the heart of it, has underinvested in the infrastructure of the rest of the world. And while we weren't doing that, China really ramped up.

KHALID: She says there's a recognition that the world needs a bigger and better system for lending money to developing countries.

KYTE: All of that requires the U.S., as the largest shareholder, to take a lead. And I think that's the message that President Biden's going to India with, which is, we're accepting our responsibility, and we're going to drive reform.

KHALID: A key proposal Biden is taking to the G-20 summit in New Delhi is to beef up and reshape the World Bank. The president is asking lawmakers here at home for $2 billion for this. The thinking is that the investment would ultimately leverage tens of billions of dollars more from other countries. Experts say it's still a fraction of what's needed, but it could be an important first step and one that shows the U.S. remains committed to being a leader in this space. Scott Morris is with the Center for Global Development.

SCOTT MORRIS: In the last six or seven years, President Xi and the Chinese government have made a big show of their multilateral commitments, including creation of new multilateral institutions. And to a large degree until now, I think the U.S. has struggled with how to respond to that.

KHALID: The Biden administration appears to be walking a very fine line, trying to present this as an alternative to China's lending schemes, while also saying this proposal is not about any single country. Take a listen to the national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, briefing reporters.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAKE SULLIVAN: Growing the size, relevance, capacity of the World Bank to deliver for low- and middle-income countries is not against China.

KHALID: The thing is, when Sullivan announced this plan last month, he described it in part as a strategy to...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SULLIVAN: Offer a credible alternative to the coercive and unsustainable lending practices of the PRC.

KHALID: The PRC being China, which often saddles low-income countries with debt they cannot repay. Notably, China's leader, Xi Jinping, is not expected to attend the G-20. It's the first time he's skipping the event in the decade since he came to power. Rachel Kyte, the former World Bank official, told me this group of 20 nations is fractured with Russia's war in Ukraine and growing U.S.-China tensions.

KYTE: This is a difficult moment for multilateralism, but it is essential that the top 20 economies keep meeting.

KHALID: The White House insists it'll make it clear this week it is committed to the G-20 as a critical forum for the major economies of the world to continue solving problems together.

Asma Khalid, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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