Mon, May 15, 2017 - Page 4 News List

Silk Road forum opens in Beijing

POLITICAL VISION:China’s president urged economic integration and cooperation on financial regulation and security, as well as increased action against terrorism

AP, BEIJING

Chinese President Xi Jinping, center, Russian President Vladimir Putin, center left, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, center right, yesterday chat during a breakfast prior to the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing.

Photo: AP / Alexei Nikolsky / Sputnik / Kremlin pool photo

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday called for closer cooperation among countries across Asia and Europe in areas from anti-terrorism to finance, as officials from dozens of governments met to promote a Beijing-led initiative to expand trade links across the region.

Speaking to an audience that included Russian President Vladimir Putin and leaders of 29 other countries, Xi outlined the most ambitious political vision yet for the “Belt and Road Initiative,” a multibillion-dollar project to build ports, railways and other facilities. It covers an arc of 65 countries reaching from the South Pacific through South and Central Asia to Europe and Africa.

The initiative would provide some of the US$7 trillion of investment in infrastructure the Asian Development Bank says the region needs this decade.

However, governments including Russia, the US and India are uneasy that China is using its status as the second-largest global economy to expand its political influence.

Xi said that his government has “no desire to impose our will on others,” but he also called for economic integration and cooperation on financial regulation, anti-terrorism and security — all fields in which China’s economic heft would give it a prominent voice.

“We should foster a vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and create a security environment built and shared by all,” Xi said.

He called for stepped-up action against terrorism and what he called its root causes of poverty and social injustice.

The “Belt and Road” is Xi’s signature foreign policy initiative.

The two-day meeting gives him a platform to promote his image as a global leader and an advocate of free trade in contrast to US President Donald Trump, who has called for import restrictions.

Xi said Beijing will contribute an additional 100 billion yuan (US$14.5 billion) to the Silk Road Fund set up in 2014 to finance infrastructure projects.

He said that his government will provide aid worth 60 billion yuan to developing countries and international organizations.

Two Chinese government-run banks are also to set up lending facilities valued 380 billion yuan to support the initiative, Xi said.

Speaking after Xi, Putin echoed the Chinese president’s theme that economic development would help to nurture political stability.

The Russian leader said the rise of trade protectionism is creating a “breeding ground for international extremism and terrorism.”

“Russia believes that the future of the Eurasian partnership is not just about fostering ties between a few countries and economies,” Putin said. “It should change the very political and economic landscape of the continent bringing Eurasia stability, prosperity.”

Xi said Beijing plans to announce dozens of new investment and other agreements during the two-day event.

Other leaders at the gathering included Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

However, no major Western leaders attended, although Britain, France and Germany were represented by top finance officials.

The US delegation was led by Matt Pottinger, special assistant to Trump and senior director for East Asia at the National Security Council.

India on Saturday delivered an implicit criticism of China’s initiative in a statement that said such an initiative should meet international norms and not create unsustainable debt. It did not send an official delegation to Beijing.

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