Journalists watch a live image of Xi Jinping speaking at the leaders summit of the Belt and Road Forum, in Beijing on Saturday. Greg Baker/ AFP
Chinese President Xi Jinping urged dozens of world leaders on Saturday to reject protectionism and invited more countries to participate in his global infrastructure project after seeking to ease concerns surrounding the programme.
Addressing 37 leaders from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America, Xi made a new pitch for his cherished Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as he kicked off the last day of a three-day forum.
Sheikh Mohammed arrives to attend a welcoming banquet for the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Friday. Jason Lee/ Reuters
The world’s number two economy has been fighting a festering trade war with the United States for months, and Xi has long sought to take the mantle of the new world power open to multilateral cooperation and globalisation.
“We need to build an open world economy and reject protectionism,” Xi told leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Pakistan’s Imran Khan seated around a large round table at the idyllic Yanqi Lake retreat at the edge of Beijing.
Imran Khan arrives to attend a welcoming banquet for the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on Friday. Jason Lee/ Reuters
A draft communique for the forum seen by AFP similarly pledges to “reject protectionism” and “unilateralism” in an oblique swipe at President Donald Trump’s “America first” presidency. US officials were not sent to the summit.
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.
“We need to encourage the full participation of more countries and companies, thus expanding the pie of common interests,” Xi said.
But critics say BRI is a plan to boost Beijing’s global influence, riddled with opaque deals favouring Chinese companies and saddling nations with debt and environmental damage.
The United States, India and some European nations have looked at the project with suspicion.
So far Chinese companies and workers have emerged as the primary beneficiaries as they are tapped to build the China-financed infrastructure in other developing countries.
BRI projects have faced pushback in some countries. In Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad cancelled some planned works and renegotiated a rail project cutting 30 percent off the price tag.
But Mohamad and other leaders attending the summit had fulsome praise for BRI.
The draft communique says BRI will welcome developed countries and international investors to participate in the projects.
Xi batted away some concerns at the opening ceremony Friday, saying the BRI will have “zero tolerance” for corruption while vowing to ensure the financial sustainability of projects and further open China’s economy.
“Faced with this rising resistance for the past year and a half and this debt image ... China is trying to reposition (BRI) and send a reassuring message,” said Nadege Rolland, a senior fellow at the National Bureau of Asian Research, a US-based think tank.
But “let’s see how it is put into practice,” she said.
China’s finance ministry released guidelines Thursday for assessing financial risk and debt sustainability to apply to projects in BRI countries.
But the document notes that countries already facing payment problems or in the process of restructuring payments “does not automatically mean that debt is unsustainable in a forward-looking sense.”
During a state banquet Friday night, Xi called on attending world leaders to band together in the face of setbacks.
“Certainly, while building the Belt and Road Initiative, we will face difficulties and there will be twists and turns,” he said.
“No matter a smooth or challenging way, we need to continue the spirit of partnership, not forget our initial intention of cooperation and move forward unwaveringly,” he said.
They agreed to hasten implementation of the China Myanmar Economic Corridor, a giant infrastructure scheme worth billions of dollars.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron were due to hold talks in Paris on Monday with the host leader seeking to forge a united European front to contend with Beijing’s advances.
Enwaer Tursun, an ethnic Uighur, had worked his way up in his native Xinjiang, eventually rising to the post of deputy secretary-general of the region’s People’s Congress in 2017.
During the meeting, they discussed friendship relations and various aspects of cooperation and coordination between the UAE and the United States of America, especially in the defence and military sectors.
The Philippine Overseas Labour Office in Dubai (POLO-Dubai) which has been upgrading its digital services and which has been on road tours with the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai (PCG-Dubai) to the Northern Emirates, is going for another outreach programme on September 18
The Dubai Court of Appeal commuted a judgment of three years imprisonment issued by the Criminal Court against an Asian woman and a gang from an Eastern European country to 6 months in prison, while upholding the fine of Dhs29,800 and the deportation after serving the terms.