China vows $124bn for new Silk Road
EU insists on transparent initiative, based on market rules
19 May, 2017
China's first ever Belt and Road summit, held in Beijing on 14 and 15 May, has reached a broad consensus and achieved positive outcomes, President Xi Jinping said at the end of the glorious forum, which gathered leaders from 29 countries. The Belt and Road initiative would work to ensure an open world economy, rebalance globalisation and work toward trade liberalisation, Xi said, adding that it would also boost support for green and low-carbon development.
The initiative is a revival of the ancient Silk Road trade route, first unveiled in 2013. Xi used the summit to bolster China's global leadership ambitions as US President Donald Trump promotes "America First" and questions existing global free trade deals, Reuters noted.
Chinese president pledged $124bn 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, news wires reported. "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.
Few Western leaders are attending the summit, observers noted. “The EU has been working with China on the concept of connectivity since 2014,” Jyrki Katainen, Vice President of the European Commission said at the forum. He stressed that any scheme to connect Europe and Asia should be an open initiative based on market rules and international standards. Transparency on our plans and activities must be the basis for our cooperation, and all partners should have a fair say about where the priorities lie, Кatainen also said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin used the event to complain about "illegal sanctions," a reference to Western sanctions imposed over Moscow's annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. India was a notable absentee from the forum, citing concerns that the project runs through disputed Kashmir. But analysts say New Delhi is deeply uneasy about the strategic implications of an initiative that would dramatically increase Beijing's presence in neighboring countries.