Chinese President Xi Jinping defended his flagship Belt and Road Initiative, casting the $1 trillion program as a driver of global growth while saying those that view it as a threat are doing themselves a disservice.
(Bloomberg) — Chinese President Xi Jinping defended his flagship Belt and Road Initiative, casting the $1 trillion program as a driver of global growth while saying those that view it as a threat are doing themselves a disservice.
“China can only do well when the world is doing well,” Xi said Wednesday as he opened the third Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing to mark the 10th anniversary of his signature project. “When China does well, the world will get even better.”
Xi is looking to reinvigorate what he has called a “project of the century” amid headwinds caused by China’s slowdown and concerns about debt sustainability. China’s overall activity in BRI countries is down about 40% from its 2018 peak as the world’s second-biggest economy slows. Beijing also faces accusations of being an irresponsible lender driving countries to default, while fractured ties with the US have made association with Xi’s pet project increasingly divisive.
Xi’s $1 Trillion ‘Project of the Century’ Gets a Reality Check
In his speech, Xi made a thinly-veiled rebuke of America’s policy toward China in recent years, which Washington has characterized as de-risking but Beijing has seen as efforts to thwart the rising power.
“We stand against unilateral sanctions, economic coercion and decoupling and supply-chain disruptions,” Xi said, without naming any country. “Ideology confrontation, geopolitical rivalry, and bloc politics are not a choice for us.”
More than 150 countries and over 30 international organizations have signed Belt and Road cooperation documents, Xi said, as he touted it as a win-win solution for China and participating countries.
“As the saying goes, when you give roses to others, fragrance lingers on your hand,” Xi said. “In other words, helping others is also helping oneself. Viewing others’ development as a threat or taking economic interdependence as a risk will not make one’s own life better or speed up one’s development.”
Fewer foreign leaders have come to the event compared to the two previous summits, in 2017 and 2019, showing interest in the initiative has declined. Italy, the only Group of Seven member of the project, has planned to exit the pact and did not send a leader to the forum.
Among the attendees are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, Kenyan President William Ruto and Chilean President Gabriel Boric.
Putin, subject of an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes in Ukraine, vouched for Beijing’s vision for economic cooperation in a speech following Xi’s.
“Russia and China — as well as the majority of states of the world — share the aspiration for equal and mutually-beneficial cooperation,” he said. The Russian leader is set to meet with his Chinese counterpart later on Wednesday.
(Updates with remarks by Xi and Putin)
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