Xi said the project had “no political agenda”. But he also expressed hope governments that participate would coordinate policy in areas from finance and law enforcement to technology and education.
“It is our hope that through the Belt and Road development, we will unleash new forces for global economic growth,” Xi said at a brief news conference at a conference centre in the hills north of the Chinese capital.
The two-day meeting included Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and presidents or prime ministers from Italy, Hungary and Greece, as well as most of China’s Asian neighbours, including Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
Xi acknowledged the initiative was in its early stages and faced daunting obstacles.
“One single feather does not make a bird fly high,” he said.
The Chinese leader’s declaration of plans to pursue cooperation in areas well beyond trade could increase potential obstacles. Chinese officials insist the initiative is purely commercial, but foreign diplomats and political analysts also see an effort by the communist Beijing government to promote its ambitions of rewriting global rules on trade and security and to reduce the US presence in Asia.
Diplomats have expressed concern Beijing is promoting a vision of trading networks centred on “great powers” such as China, which would erode the rules-based system under the World Trade Organisation in which all competitors are treated equally.
Trump’s plan to focus on domestic issues and downplay foreign affairs has given Beijing an opening to try to play a bigger leadership role in trade, climate and other global issues.
China is the biggest trading partner for all of its Asian neighbours and a growing investor. But other Asian governments are uneasy about Beijing’s strategic ambitions, especially after it built artificial islands and military bases in the South China Sea to enforce its claim to most of the region. AP
Chinese President Xi Jinping speaking at the end of the Belt and Road Forum for Internation Cooperation in Beijing yesterday.