Xi Jinping hails new age of globalisation at Silk Road summit
North Korea missile tests casts shadow over One Belt, One Road meeting
Chinese president Xi Jinping has called for closer cooperation across Asia and Europe to boost trade and create peace at a summit of 29 leaders in Beijing to launch his ambitious new Silk Road infrastructure project.
The One Belt, One Road (OBOR) or Belt and Road initiative links China with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial zones in 65 countries.
“The ancient silk routes thrived in times of peace, but lost vigour in times of war. The pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative requires a peaceful and stable environment,” Mr Xi said in a keynote speech at the opening of a two-day forum in a resort near the capital.
The new Silk Road project is central to president Xi’s ambition to place China as a champion of globalisation in contrast to the “America First” protectionist approach advocated by US president Donald Trump.
“We should foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, and we should forge partnerships of dialogue with no confrontation and of friendship rather than alliance,” Mr Xi said.
He is planning to invest at least €110 million in the scheme, but that could rise as the project develops.
Leaders from 29 countries are attending the forum, which ends on Monday, including some of China’s closest allies such as Vladimir Putin, prime minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen and Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
One Belt, One Road faces numerous challenges, underlined on the first day after a North Korean missile test cast a shadow over the summit. Delegations from North Korea and the US are expected at the forum, though neither country’s leaders will attend.
The list of attendees also includes Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as the prime ministers of Spain, Italy, Greece and Hungary.
India is boycotting the event because one of the flagship projects is the “China-Pakistan Economic Corridor”, an arrangement with India’s arch-rival Pakistan.
No major Western leaders are attending, although senior finance officials from Britain, France and Germany attended. Some Western officials see the initiative as an attempt to promote Chinese influence globally and knock the United States off its perch in Asia.
The environmental group Greenpeace hoped the OBOR initiative would stress environmental accountability.
“Shaping the Belt and Road initiative with the environment in mind is key to setting the new ‘China story’ right,” said Greenpeace campaigner Yixiu Wu. “The initiative should be used to promote renewable energy and environmental sustainability on a global scale.”
Shi Zhiqin, resident scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Centre for Global Policy, said the Belt and Road scheme was a concrete Chinese strategic initiative to promote globalisation.
“The central principles are collaboration, building, and result-sharing in which the interests of China are tightly tied to that of its BRI partners … China is demonstrating that it is a responsible global player in the international society,” Mr Shi said.