China hails success of its One Belt, One Road initiative

Belt and Road strategy will pump €90bn into linking China with Africa, Asia and Europe

Chinese president Xi Jinping, Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin   during the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Photograph: Reuters

Chinese president Xi Jinping, Argentina’s president Mauricio Macri and Russia’s president Vladimir Putin during the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing. Photograph: Reuters

 

China’s new Silk Road initiative will bring countries together and establish Beijing as a champion of globalisation, president Xi Jinping said, filling a gap left by the more protectionist stance of his US counterpart Donald Trump.

Some 29 heads of state gathered in Beijing for a summit on the Belt and Road initiative, which will pump nearly €90 billion into links between China and Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial zones in 65 countries along ancient trade routes.

Mr Xi, who first started promoting the trade and infrastructure master plan in 2013, has been keen to emphasise its inclusiveness.

“The Belt and Road development does not shut out, nor is it directed against, any party,” the Chinese president said.

“So long as we press ahead with a common vision without back-pedalling or standing still, we will achieve greater connectivity and benefit from each other’s development,” Mr Xi said.

Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras, Spanish president Mariano Rajoy and Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo attended the event, but neither France nor Germany sent heads of state.

Transparency

Generally the European Union took a back seat, stopping short of giving an unreserved welcome to the initiative, citing concerns on transparency, sustainability and issues such as the tendering process for contracts, but it has broadly welcomed the project.

But individual countries, including Ireland, have welcomed the event and, later this week, the European Union is co-funding a seminar in Beijing on sharing experiences in poverty reduction in Belt and Road countries.

Delegates who attended the forum at a lake resort near the capital included Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan and president Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Also present were UN secretary-general António Guterres, World Bank president Jim Yong-kim and Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Russian president Vladimir Putin backed it enthusiastically, even giving an impromptu piano recital that delighted his hosts, while Pakistan’s high profile in the plan has angered India.

Other groups, such as environmental groups, have complained the multibillion-euro plan does not offer sufficient commitments to social and environmental sustainability and transparency.

Funding demand

Yi Gang, deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, said that China would inject an additional 100 billion yuan (€13 billion) into the Silk Road Fund to meet an enormous funding demand.

The fund has a large reserve of projects in waiting, and the demand for funds will be greater in the future, said Mr Yi.

“It is very necessary to increase the capital of the Silk Road Fund at the current stage,” Mr Yi told the Xinhua news agency.

In a sign of how seriously the forum was taken, Mr Xi met with Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who was in town to attend the meeting and delivered a letter from Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

Mr Xi said the Belt and Road initiative would form a framework for discussion on co-operation with Japan and said: “We should give more thoughts to issues that interfered with the improvement of bilateral ties and apply effective measures to reverse the situation.”