Tue, May 16, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Xi ends trade summit with plan to return in 2019

Bloomberg

Chinese President Xi Jinping, third left, Russian President Vladimir Putin, second right, and other leaders yesterday arrive for a group photograph during the Belt and Road Forum at the International Conference Center outside Beijing.

Photo: EPA

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday wrapped up the inaugural summit dedicated to his cornerstone diplomatic initiative for Chinese-style globalization with an invitation to world leaders attending the gathering to reconvene in 2019.

Xi, who has heralded his Belt and Road initiative as a “project of the century,” said in a televised closing address in Beijing that his plan to link China with the world via ancient trade routes would address economic challenges and promote globalization.

The initiative has “entered a new era as it is in full swing,” with 68 nations and international organizations signing cooperation agreements with the host, Xi said.

Xi on Sunday opened the two-day meeting by pledging 540 billion yuan (US$78 billion) in financing, including 100 billion yuan for China’s Silk Road Fund, 380 billion yuan in new lending for participating nations and 60 billion yuan in coming years to developing countries and international organizations that join the program.

He repeated his call for multilateral trade, describing his initiative as a force for peace in “a world fraught with challenges.”

He told the almost two dozen world leaders gathered at the forum that countries should “uphold and grow an open world economy.”

The speech built on an image of Xi as a champion of global free trade that he has sought to hone since US President Donald Trump’s election, most notably in a January speech in Davos, Switzerland.

It set the tone for the two-day forum that started on Sunday to discuss the Belt and Road plan, which aims to connect China with Europe, Asia and Africa through infrastructure and investment.

“They see an opportunity to fill the vacuum and take advantage of perceptions globally,” said Andrew Gilholm, director of analysis for North Asia at Control Risks Group, referring to changing perceptions of US leadership in the Trump era.

The presence of major leaders in Beijing to hear China’s plans “fits with the kind of image China has been trying to project,” he said.

Addressing concerns that the initiative will become a bonanza for Chinese companies or a strategic play for regional domination, Xi declared that the plan would be open to all countries and would complement each nation’s development goals.

Other leaders hinted at potential problems in their remarks.

Matt Pottinger, US National Security Council senior director for East Asia and special assistant to Trump who is representing the US at the forum, urged transparency and “fair process” in his comments.

IMF managing director Christine Lagarde called for high-quality infrastructure that respects the environment, while also welcoming the Chinese initiative.

Xi’s speech also drew implicit contrast between Chinese-style development objectives and those of the West, saying the initiative will not resort to “outdated geopolitical maneuvering.”

China does not seek to export its development model to other nations, while also calling for mutual respect of one another’s sovereignty, territory and “core interests,” Xi said.

Eighteen nations, including the UK, agreed on the guiding principles for financing development of the initiative. The Asian Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, European Investment Bank, New Development Bank, World Bank, and China’s Ministry of Finance signed an agreement on promoting Belt and Road, Chinese Vice Minister of Shi Yaobin (史耀斌) said.

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