China’s Belt and Road Forum opens in Beijing

central_asia_globe-114

BEIJING (TCA) — Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for closer cooperation across Asia and Europe in areas from anti-terrorism to finance as leaders from 29 countries gathered in Beijing today for the opening of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, the event that would promote a Chinese trade initiative that could increase Beijing’s global influence on trade and geopolitics, RFE/RL reports.

The two-day summit, which is taking place on May 14 and 15, is showcasing Xi’s One Belt, One Road initiative, a revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route, first unveiled in 2013.

Xi has pledged $124 billion in funds for the initiative, which seeks to connect China with Africa, Asia, and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads, and industrial parks.

Speaking before an audience that included Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Xi assured Western diplomats that the plan was not simply an attempt to promote Chinese influence globally.

“In advancing the Belt and Road, we will not retread the old path of games between foes. Instead we will create a new model of cooperation and mutual benefit,” Xi said.

Xi has defended globalization as U.S. President Donald Trump has promised to put “America First” in international trade and relations.

Xi also pledged $8.7 billion in aid to countries and international organizations that participate in the Silk Road plan. Xi said the project was open to everyone, including those in Europe and Africa.

Few Western leaders are attending the summit, although Britain, France, and Germany are represented by top finance officials. The United States sent a senior White House adviser.

Other delegates include officials, entrepreneurs, financiers and journalists from over 130 countries, and representatives of key international organizations, such as UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde, Xinhua reports.

Also attending the summit are Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

Ahead of Beijing’s international forum, Pakistan signed new deals with China worth nearly $500 million. Officials said on May 13 that the deals added to the $57 billion already pledged for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

The CPEC effort consists of rail, road, and energy infrastructure and is part of the “Belt and Road” initiative.

Pakistan’s traditional foe, India, refused to send an official delegation to Beijing, reflecting displeasure with China for developing the $57 billion trade corridor through Pakistan that also traverses the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

The forum will also feature a round-table summit of global leaders on Monday, May 15.

Sergey Kwan

TCA