Chinese President Xi Jinping said the cooperation agreements worth more than USD 64 billion were signed at a CEO conference during the 2nd Belt and Road Forum which concluded here on Saturday. A total of 283 items of practical outcomes were achieved during the preparatory process and the holding of the forum, Xi said in a statement before the media on Saturday after his roundtable meeting with 37 heads of state and governments who took part in the meeting.
Earlier in the day, Xi called for joint efforts of all parties to promote high-quality development of the Belt and Road (BRI) initiative at the leaders’ roundtable meeting of the forum.
In his address at the roundtable meet, Xi said his trillion-dollar BRI initiative should benefit all around the world and deliver common development by following established international rules and norms.
He again stressed that the BRI would focus on common development of all the participating countries and their people.
“We must implement the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits to see that all voices are heard, all reached their full potential and all stand to benefit,” the Chinese President said.
The BRI must be open, clean and green and follow high standards, people centred sustainable approach, he said, adding that it should be aligned to the United Nations’ sustainable development agenda.
“Align our cooperation with universally accepted rules, standards and best practices and pursue social and economic progress and environmental protection in a balanced way. The BRI should be beneficial to all and deliver common development,” Xi said.
Those who attended the BRF meeting included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and heads of several Asian, African and Latin American countries besides heads of the UN and the IMF. India and the US skipped the meeting.
India, which boycotted the first BRF meeting held in 2017 over its objections to the USD 60 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, skipped its second edition for the same reasons.
The CPEC, which connects Gwadar Port in Pakistan’s Balochistan with China’s Xinjiang province, is the flagship project of the BRI.
India has also been airing its concerns over the BRI financing, saying that connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities.
This time the US has emerged as a fierce critic of the BRI, asserting that its predatory financing is leaving the smaller countries in heavy debt.
The concerns grew louder after China acquired Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port for a 99-year lease as a debt swap.
The heavy Chinese financing of the CPEC also raised concerns over Pakistan’s ability to pay back.
China has clarified that less than 20 per cent of the CPEC projects are based on loans provided by it and the rest of the 80 per cent ventures are either directly invested by Beijing or used Chinese grants.
The BRI was launched by President Xi when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link southeast Asia, central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
China is doling out huge sums of money for infrastructure projects in countries from Asia to Africa and Europe, enhancing its global influence.
In his speech at the opening ceremony of the 2nd BRF on Friday, Xi allayed fears that China is using the BRI as a geopolitical tool to attain superpower status.
He said the BRI was “not an exclusive club”.
“Everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption,” he said.
Xi said China will not engage in beggar-thy-neighbour currency devaluation.
China will continue to improve the exchange rate formation mechanism of its currency and keep the exchange rate generally stable on a reasonable and balanced level, he said.
Xi said the joint building of the Belt and Road has opened up new space for the world’s economic growth and it has also created a new platform to boost international trade and investment, expanded new practices to optimise global economic governance, and made new contributions to improving people’s well-being in all countries.
Besides Putin and Khan, Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Myanmar state councillor Aung San Suu Kyi are among the top leaders taking part in the event.
France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Japan, South Korea and the EU sent high-level representatives to the forum.
China said representatives from 150 countries and international organisations were taking part in it.
Commenting on the BRF meeting, Li Xiangyang - director of China’s National Institute of International Strategy - said “the BRI has helped China expand its global friendship network which shows that China is playing an increasingly pivotal role in promoting regional development and safeguarding multilateralism”.
The initiative, which focuses on utilising market and economic resources to explore new diplomatic relations with other countries, also drives the country’s transition to economic diplomacy, Li told Global Times on Saturday.