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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.

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