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China's Xi says Belt and Road needs to reject protectionism

China's leader offers billions for new Silk Road initiative China's Xi says Silk Road plan boosts finance, security ties
Manuel Armenta | 15 May, 2017, 20:06

Chinese President Xi Jinping called Sunday for closer cooperation among countries across Asia and Europe in areas from anti-terrorism to finance, as officials from dozens of governments met to promote a Beijing-led initiative to expand trade links across the region.

"It is our hope that through the "Belt and Road" development, we will unleash new forces for global economic growth", Xi told reporters at a conference center in the hills north of the Chinese capital.

Wang Jun, Administrator of the State Administration of Taxation (SAT) of China, suggested taking additional measures to strengthen cooperation in taxation between the states along the Belt and Road route, since such cooperation is gradually becoming an important part of trade and economic cooperation between these countries.

President Xi Jinping chairs the Leaders' Roundtable Summit at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, on May 15, 2017.

Xi also pledged more Chinese commitments such as an additional 100 billion yuan (14.5 billion USA dollars) to the Silk Road Fund, showing that the Belt and Road is not only a grand vision, but also down-to-earth action.

The heads of 29 states and governments, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, took part in the event.

It's a milestone event created to promote Chinese President Xi Jinping's grand vision of expanding trade, financial and infrastructure links between Asia, Africa and Europe.

White House adviser Matt Pottinger said the United States welcomed efforts by China to promote infrastructure connectivity as part of its Belt and Road initiative, and USA companies could offer top value services.

"Such a broad sweep and scale of interlocking economic partnerships and investments is unprecedented in history", Sharif said.

The crux of India's reluctance to the program is the fact that the $46 billion corridor will traverse Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, with officials declaring that the venture violated Indian sovereignty. By some estimates, China plans to pump US$150 billion (S$210 billion) into such projects each year.

Chinese officials insist the initiative is purely commercial, but foreign diplomats and political analysts also see an effort by Beijing to promote its own vision of trade and security arrangements and reduce the USA presence in Asia. They are also concerned about transparency and access for foreign firms to the scheme. While CPEC is highlighted as "flagship project", it included Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar, (BCIM) Economic Corridor, New Eurasian Land Bridge, China-Mongolia-Russia Economic Corridor, China-Indochina Peninsula Economic Corridor and 21st century Maritime Silk Road.

But the USA will be happy if it can make money out of the new Silk Road.

Baglay was talking about the danger of debt for host countries, especially smaller economies, which may struggle to pay back loans for infrastructure projects funded by China.

Some Belt and Road projects are already raising concerns in certain countries.

Chinese state-run media has spared no effort in its coverage of the summit, including broadcasting an awkwardly-named English-language music video "The Belt and Road is How" sung by children from countries on the new Silk Road.