BELT AND ROAD FORUM
- Initiative attracted controversy over debt concerns
- Xi offers soothing remarks to the US over subsidies, trade
- Pak PM calls for creation of an office for anti-graft co-op
Chinese President Xi Jinping yesterday sought to bat away concerns about his ambitious Belt and Road Initiative, saying his global infrastructure project will have “zero tolerance” for corruption while vowing to prevent debt risks.
In a speech kicking off a BRI summit, Xi also offered soothing remarks to the US over subsidies, the yuan and trade as the two sides head into fresh high-level talks next week.
Xi’s signature foreign policy aims to reinvent the ancient Silk Road to connect Asia to Europe and Africa through massive investments in maritime, road and rail projects -- with hundreds of billions of dollars in financing from Chinese banks.
It offers to bring much-needed modern infrastructure to developing countries, but critics say it is riddled with opaque deals favouring Chinese companies while saddling nations with debt and environmental damage.
“Everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption,” Xi said at the gathering of 37 world leaders which ends today.
China has also rejected accusations that Belt and Road is a “debt trap” and a geopolitical tool for Beijing’s ambitions of becoming a global superpower.
“The Belt and Road is not an exclusive club,” Xi said.
China is presenting a debt sustainability framework at the forum -- a move welcomed by International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde.
Calling for a “BRI 2.0”, Lagarde said in a speech the scheme needs “increased transparency, open procurement with competitive bidding, and better risk assessment in project selection.”
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who said his country was an “enthusiastic” supporter of Belt and Road, called for the creation of an office for anti-corruption cooperation.
The two countries are building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a multi-billion-dollar project linking China’s northwest to the Arabian sea port of Gwadar.
Amid warnings that some of the massive projects are causing environmental damage in Asia, Xi said China will also promote “green” development.
Khan, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, whose country became the first G7 member to sign up to Belt and Road, are among the leaders attending the summit.
EU powers France and Germany, which have taken a careful stance about BRI, sent cabinet membersWashington has not dispatched any officials.
Putin called for a global response against protectionism, unilateral sanctions and “trade wars” -- veiled criticisms of the United States.
US officials have dismissed BRI as a “vanity project” and rebuked Rome for signing up to the scheme.