Join Belt and Road Initiative: Xi to more countries

Chinese premier extends conciliatory invitation to holdouts of globe-trekking infrastructure spending spree

The Belt and Road Initiative aims to recreate the Silk Road connecting China and Europe, among other historic trade routes. Ivan Marc/Shutterstock

Chinese President Xi Jinping exhorted more world leaders to sign agreements with Beijing under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) even as the scheme increasingly becomes a bone of contention with critics.

The initiative, hailed by market observers as a fuel for untapped housing markets across Asia, has inked USD64 billion in deals thus far, claimed Xi at the Belt and Road Forum that closed Saturday in Beijing.

“In all Belt and Road cooperation projects, the government will provide guidance, enterprises will act as the main players, and market principles will apply,” promised Xi.

“This will make the projects more sustainable, and create a fair and non-discriminatory environment for foreign investors.”

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Xi’s pronouncements come as the initiative faces challenges to address criticism that it has become a bulwark for debt diplomacy: saddling beneficiary countries with debt in exchange for allegiance to Beijing. The premier addressed such concerns in addition to vowing to keep BRI projects in line with sustainability checks, according to a joint communique issued at the end of the forum.

“We welcome financial institutions from different countries to jointly invest and finance for Belt and Road projects, encourage cooperation in third-party markets and achieve mutual benefits through the participation of multi-parties,” Xi said.

Around 37 heads of state signed the joint statement. Conspicuously missing at the forum were leaders from the US, India, Japan, Germany and France.

The BRI aims to revive China’s ancient land and maritime Silk Road routes in the form of a globe-spanning complex of ports, railways, roads, and other trading points.