Xi ends trade summit with plan to return in 2019

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. Image courtesy Twitter

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying. Image courtesy Twitter

China will host a second Belt and Road International Forum in 2019, President Xi Jinping announced on Monday.

Reacting to India's reservations over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a flagship project of China's prestigious One Belt and Road (OBOR), the Chinese Foreign Ministry said over 100 countries and organisations were already involved in the venture.

China will provide emergency food aid worth 2 billion yuan to developing countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative and make an additional contribution of $1 billion to the Assistance Fund for South-South Cooperation.

In contrast, Xi said China's Belt and Road plan would be inclusive and open to all.

For his part, Gentiloni said the just-concluded Belt and Road forum had sent a positive signal to the world economy and worldwide trade.

India's booming economy and its increasingly affluent middle class of more than 300 million people provide it with growing regional clout.

Hailed by Xi as a "project of the century", the plan fits into his bigger narrative that China is setting an example of globalization, filling the void left by the United States under Donald Trump's "America First" policy.

Participants in the Leaders Roundtable of the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation adopted a joint communique.

But Xi's Silk Road plan has raised concerns that he is seeking to expand China's economic and political ambitions overseas rather than open up his own country to further trade and investment. It calls for expanding trade across Asia, Africa and Europe by investing in ports, railways and other facilities, but governments including Russia, Washington and India are uneasy Beijing also is using it to gain political influence.

The Russian president also said the proposal was timely and important because the plan looks to create "a zone for economic development and mutually beneficial trade between Asia and Europe".

According to Xinhua, 68 countries and global organizations signed cooperation deals with China to carry forward the Belt and Road. A high-level European Union diplomat, who spoke to The Guardian on condition of anonymity, said that for Europe, the Belt and Road initiative can only be a success if it's based on transparency and co-ownership. Key projects of the Belt and Road Initiative have yielded positive results.

The US should be "a stakeholder in the initiative", read a column in the Global Times, as joining it would "deliver benefits to American companies and help increase job opportunities within the country".

Notably, however, India boycotted the summit to demonstrate its opposition to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which is a flagship OBOR project connecting China and Pakistan with road, rail and pipeline links that cross the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Jörg Wuttke, outgoing president of the EU Chamber of Commerce in China, said last week that many foreign firms still face major regulatory barriers and limits to market access in China.

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