“The United States has reshaped how it uses military and economic tools to compete with China, Russia, and other adversaries. The United States is increasingly adept at deploying military assets, as well as a range of financial sanctions or trade deals, to weaken China or Russia’s position and advance its own. Yet, the United States has not calibrated all statecraft tools for this competition. This includes how and where it uses foreign aid.

“For more than fifty years, foreign aid has been a core form of US engagement in the developing world. To advance its interests, the United States has provided loans, technical assistance, and direct budget support to developing nations to promote economic growth and more representative forms of governance.

“A fully developed strategy for using foreign aid across all sectors—economic, education, security assistance, and democracy support—can provide critical reinforcement to the military and economic pillars of strategic competition. To be sure, the United States has reorganized parts of its bureaucracy and launched new initiatives to enhance how it uses foreign aid to compete with China. The US Department of State recently launched a new Office of China Coordination, informally known as China House, to coordinate China policy. The Biden administration announced a flagship Group of Seven Plus (G7+) initiative for the advancement of strategic, values-driven, and high-standard infrastructure and investment in low- and middle-income countries. Congress initiated foreign-aid funds dedicated to countering Chinese malign influence in foreign political systems. New embassies in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, and Tonga, among other potential locations, are welcome developments that will provide the sustained presence necessary to engage governments and push back against Beijing’s influence, as well as help identify ways to use foreign aid to compete. …”

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