China pledges US$122 billion for China to UK Silk Road Rail Route
Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged an extra $122bn for international infrastructure schemes as part of China’s grand “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative as leaders and top officials from around the world gathered in Beijing for a summit on the plan.
The scheme launched in 2014 to revive the ancient east-west trade networks known collectively as the Silk Road, will include high-speed railways, bridges, roads, ports, industrial parks, oil pipelines and power grids now under construction from “Mongolia to Malaysia, Thailand to Pakistan and Laos to Uzbekistan.”
Xi said in his keynote address to 29 heads of state, plus heads of the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, that
“The ancient silk routes thrived in times of peace, but lost vigour in times of war, and we should foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, and we should forge partnerships of dialogue with no confrontation and of friendship rather than alliance.”
European leaders attending included the prime ministers of Spain, Italy, Greece and Hungary, while UK and Germany were among the countries who sent finance or economy ministers. Matthew Pottinger, the Trump administration’s National Security Council senior director for East Asia, led the US delegation.
Notably absent from the event was India, which opposes the current flagship OBOR project, the multi-billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a road, rail and pipeline link from China that crosses the disputed territory of Kashmir.
India aside, China’s nearest neighbours are enthusiastic about OBOR as it promises to bring unprecedented infrastructure investment and economic development. Commerce Minister Zhong Shan said China would import US$2 trillion worth of products from OBOR-participating countries over the next five years.
The UK finance minister Philip Hammond, said that the UK was eager to form new trading relationships in the wake of Brexit, and that the initiative was truly ground-breaking in the scale of its ambition as it spanned more than sixty-five countries, across four continents, with the potential to raise the living standards of 70% of the global population. He added, “The UK can be a natural partner in delivering this infrastructure.”
Finance ministries from 27 countries at the summit were asked to approve a set of principles to guide project financing; however, Germany abstained calling for greater transparency in tenders, for adherence to international standards, for the creation of a level playing field for all the companies and countries involved, plus assurances that projects would not just be snapped up by Chinese companies.
President Xi Jinping China said that OBOR would be open to participation from all countries, including Europe, Africa and the Americas, which are not situated on the traditional Silk Road. “No matter if they are from Asia and Europe, or Africa or the Americas, they are all cooperative partners in building the Belt and Road”, Xi said.