China's Belt and Road initiative (BRI) casts a long shadow over Asia. Beijing's effort to fill the yawning infrastructure gap — estimated to be in the trillions of dollars — is widely viewed as an attempt by China to extend its influence as well as meet local needs. Japan, the United States and like-minded governments are trying to respond to the BRI challenge, but they don't have the financial resources to match China's largesse.

Their effort to construct more creative responses has yielded the Blue Dot Network (BDN), a certification program that will set international standards for big infrastructure projects. The BDN is the right response to the BRI: It supports recipients, ensuring that the aid they get is an effective and sustainable response to their needs.

The BRI, launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, spans the globe; more than 150 governments have signed cooperation agreements with Beijing. A World Bank analysis concluded earlier this year that in 70 BRI "corridor economies" (which excludes China), projects in all sectors that have been executed, are being implemeted or are planned are estimated to amount to $575 billion.