Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $124 billion for his Belt and Road Initiative at an international forum on Sunday.
Xi wants to forge a path of peace, inclusiveness and free trade, and called for the abandonment of old models based on rivalry and diplomatic power games. Hi called the plan “a project of the century” that will benefit people across the world.
Named after the historic Silk Road, the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by Xi in 2013 to chart out new territories for international cooperation. “Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit,” he told an audience of more than 1,500 from across the globe.
“The Silk Road spirit has become a great heritage of human civilization,” he said.
The Belt and Road Forum was held in Beijing with 29 foreign heads of state and government leaders in attendance, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Other delegates included officials, entrepreneurs and financiers from over 130 countries and representatives of key international organizations, such as U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim and Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde.
The United States sent a delegation led by Matt Pottinger, special assistant to the president and senior director for Asia at the National Security Council.
“Chinese outbound investment is forecast to total $600 billion to $800 billion over the next five years, a fairly large proportion of which will go into markets related to the Belt and Road Initiative,” said Ning Jizhe, vice-minister of the National Development and Reform Commission, at a news conference.
Expanding cooperation in production capacity is an important vehicle for promoting the Belt and Road Initiative, Ning said. It has further opened up China’s economy and let each country use its comparative strength to help shape a more balanced and inclusive global industrial chain.
“Countries and regions related to the Belt and Road have become an important destination for China’s investment, equipment, technology and services,” Ning said.
From 2013 to 2016, Chinese companies invested over $60 billion in the countries and regions, creating more than 180,000 local jobs, and paid $1.1 billion in tax to local governments. High-speed railways and nuclear power have been among the first technologies exported to other markets.
China has inked a deal with Indonesia to build the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway. The China-Laos railway is under construction and work on the China-Thailand railway is being accelerated.
The ultimate plan is to build a network of new trade routes including multiple high-speed rail networks to Europe and ports across Asia and Africa.
The One Belt One Road project is already in action in Chongqing in southern China where a massive logistics center moves containers on to trains 24 hours a day. Chinese goods such as iPads and car parts are moved west into Central Asia, Russia and Europe. The two-kilometer-long (1.2-mile) trains travel 12,000 kilometers (7,500 miles) to Germany in 13 days.
Xi hopes to tie more than 65 countries and two thirds of the world's population to its economy. The initiative stands in contrast to U.S. President Donald Trump promotion of "America First" and his reluctance for some existing global free trade deals.
India has shown some reticence for China's plans. All of India’s neighbors, except Bhutan, sent high-level delegations to the event. However, India stayed away over concerns for China's plans for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. The Corridor, a cluster of road, rail and energy projects, will connect Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port city on the Arabian Sea and Kashgar in China’s far-western western Xinjiang province.
India has reservations about the project because it passes through Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir, which India says challenges its sovereignty by lending legitimacy to Pakistan’s claim over the territory.