Beijing, London – Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation summit began on Sunday in Beijing and brought together leaders from 29 countries and over 1500 official representing over 130 states, with dozens of international organizations like Un Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres, President of World Bank Jim Yong Kim, and IMF director Christine Lagarde.
The United States sent a delegation led by White House adviser Matt Pottinger to China’s new Silk Road plan summit.
The summit aims at reestablishing the old Silk trade road between Eurasia and Africa. The route was used to transport products and commodities from the middle empire to Europe and vice versa, through central Asia.
Speaking at the start of the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping hailed his multi-billion dollar infrastructure crusade as a means of building a modern-day version of the ancient Silk Road and a new “golden age” of globalization.
Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey were also present at the summit and spoke at the opening ceremony.
Xi Jinping pledged $124 billion for his new Silk Road plan to forge a path of peace, inclusiveness, and free trade, and called for the abandonment of old models based on rivalry and diplomatic power games.
The initiative spans over 65 countries representing 60 percent of the world population and around a third of global gross domestic product.
“The glory of the ancient Silk Road shows that geographical dispersion is not insurmountable,” he told officials who have gathered in Beijing for the event.
Xi said China would contribute $14.5 billion to the Silk Road Fund, which was set up in 2014 to finance infrastructure projects and provide aid worth $8.7 billion to developing countries and international organizations taking part in the initiative.
Two Chinese banks will also set up lending schemes valued at about $55 billion to support the initiative, Xi said.
China will set up 50 joint laboratories with countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to enhance cooperation on innovation, President Xi also stated. China will offer, over the next five years, young foreign scientists 2,500 short-term research visits to China and train 5,000 foreign scientists, engineers and managers.
“We will launch the Belt and Road Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan,” he told the attendees.
China will also launch 100 “happy home” projects, 100 poverty alleviation projects and 100 health care and rehabilitation projects in countries along the Belt and Road.
Hours before the summit began, North Korea launched a ballistic missile that flew 700 km before it landed in the Sea of Japan.
Park Byeong-Seung, who leads South Korea’s delegation, said he held a small talk session with head of North Korean delegation Minister of External Economic Relations Kim Yong Jae and condemned Pyongyang’s launch of the missile.
Park said that North Korean delegation hoped for a dialogue between both Koreas, but refrained from giving further details.
On the sidelines of the international conference, Chinese President Xi met with Russia’s Putin and agreed on a political solution for the Korean nuclear issue.
“The two countries, which have been committed to seeking a political solution to the Syrian conflict and the Korean Peninsula nuclear issue, have played a role of ballast stone in safeguarding regional and global peace and stability,” China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi.
India has voiced its own opposition at the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, a Belt and Road project aimed at linking northwestern China to the Arabian Sea. One of the key Belt and Road projects passes through the area of dispute, Kashmir.
Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay said India could not accept a project that compromised its sovereignty.
“No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Baglay said.
“Connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities,” Baglay said.
Relations between India and China had been strained over the past few months, where Beijing is stubbornly opposing India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
China is against a UN ban against leader Masood Azhar who is in Pakistan. He is accused of being the mastermind behind attacks in India.
Last month, Beijing condemned India’s increasingly public engagement of the Dalai Lama, including hosting the Tibetan spiritual leader in a territory controlled by India but claimed by China in April.
British finance minister Philip Hammond said on Sunday Britain is a natural partner for China’s new Silk Road program, and as it leaves the European Union (EU) it wants more trade with the world not less.
China is one of the countries Britain hopes to sign a free trade agreement with once it leaves the EU.
“It is my belief that Britain, lying at the western end of the Belt and Road, is a natural partner in this endeavor. Britain has for centuries been one of the strongest advocates on an open global trading system,” he said.
Britain can be a natural partner in delivering infrastructure in Belt and Road countries by supporting the finance and planning needed, Hammond said.
“As China drives forward the Belt and Road initiative from the east, we in Britain are a natural partner in the west, standing ready to work with all Belt and Road partner countries to make a success of this initiative.”
Hammond stated that UK hopes for more trade and China shares this ambition.