Belt and Road Latest: Forum for Xi’s Signature Project Starts in Beijing

Russian leader Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing as China kicks off its Belt and Road Forum in a bid to reinvigorate the infrastructure investment initiative that President Xi Jinping has called a “project of the century.”

(Bloomberg) — Russian leader Vladimir Putin arrived in Beijing as China kicks off its Belt and Road Forum in a bid to reinvigorate the infrastructure investment initiative that President Xi Jinping has called a “project of the century.”

The trip abroad is rare for Putin, the subject of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Putin is expected to attend the forum in Beijing, Chinese state media reported, and meet Xi on Wednesday. The two are likely to focus on their growing relationship, which Washington and Brussels view with caution amid the war in Ukraine. 

Among the speakers who addressed a CEO conference on Tuesday afternoon are Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee and Chinese Vice Premier He Lifeng, Xi’s point man for shoring up the nation’s embattled property industry and the financial sector.

(All timestamps are Beijing time)

China Emphasizes on Sustainable Debt in Cooperation (3:30 p.m)

Vice Premier He said China will improve its cooperation mechanism with Belt and Road countries based on the principle of sustainable debt. Beijing is ready to work with all countries, He said at the CEO event, adding that global trade is lacking momentum. China encourages cooperation in the areas of AI, big data, e-commerce and new energy, he said.

Zhang Yuzhuo, chairman of the government body that manages state-owned enterprises, said China will establish new models of cooperation and build a pipeline of “small and beautiful” projects. 

China Seeks More Farm Imports From Chile (2:30 p.m.)

Xi said China welcomes more farm product imports from Chile and encourages Chinese companies to participate in the construction of major projects in the South American nation, Xinhua reports. 

In a meeting with Chilean President Gabriel Boric Tuesday, Xi also called for the deepening of ties on trade and infrastructure, while exploring cooperation in new areas such as clean energy, digital economy and technology.

Both nations signed agreements to cooperate on Belt and Road, digital economy, customs inspection and quarantine, technology and agriculture. Boric said Chile supports China’s interest to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Digital Economy Partnership Agreement, according to the Xinhua report.

Chinese Vice Premier to Address Top Business Executives (1:50 p.m.)

Chinese Vice Premier He is scheduled to deliver a major speech at the CEO event. In recent months, He, 68, has met with high-level foreign officials including US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

He also met last month with Europe’s top trade chief just as the EU announced a probe into China’s electric vehicle subsidies. He expressed “concern and dissatisfaction” over the investigation but avoided aggressive rhetoric in favor of agreeing to working groups on financial services and trade curbs.

Energy Projects in Focus at CEO Event (12:45 p.m.)

Among the companies at this afternoon’s CEO roundtable are ACWA Power Co., the Saudi Arabian electricity giant with projects across a dozen countries; China Energy Engineering Group, a major builder of power plants; and TBEA Co., which specializes in solar panel and electric transmission equipment.

Energy projects have been a mainstay of the Belt and Road Initiative since its inception, and this year looks to be more of the same. Investors will be watching for the signing of any deals.

Xi Calls Kazakh President an ‘Old Friend’ (9:50 a.m.)

Xi met Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Tuesday, China Central Television reports. Calling Tokayev an “old friend,” Xi said he wants to advance China’s strategic partnership with the Central Asian country, according to the report.

Healthy ties between the nations is beneficial to maintaining peace in the region, Xi added.

China Adjusting to Debt Worries, Scholar Says (8:38 a.m.)

Beijing has realized that “through the Belt and Road it’s found itself suddenly carrying an awful lot of debt with a lot of countries that frankly are going to struggle to ever really pay it back in any way,” Raffaello Pantucci, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told Bloomberg TV.

Watch: China Showcasing It’s a Big Power on the Stage: Pantucci (Video)

That’s led it to champion more “small and beautiful” projects that don’t cost as much but still benefit people’s livelihoods, he said.

Overseas Visitors Arrive in Beijing (8:30 a.m.)

Guests are descending on the Chinese capital for the forum, which comes as China celebrates the 10th anniversary of the flagship initiative. While the project has drawn $1 trillion in its first decade, momentum has tapered in recent years amid concern over debt sustainability.

Among those to arrive are Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and Chilean President Boric. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is in Beijing and met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Wang said the Communist Party is prepared to boost its relationship with the Labour Party.

–With assistance from Colum Murphy, Phila Siu, Dan Murtaugh, Kevin Ding and Ocean Hou.

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