China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will have "zero tolerance for corruption" and bring "high-quality" growth to all countries involved, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Friday.
He was speaking in Beijing at the start a summit on his grand plans to rebuild the old Silk Road and connect China with Asia, Africa and parts of Europe.
The massive project has proven controversial, with some voicing concerns that it's fueling local corruption and leaves behind debt and environmental damage.
What's happening at the summit?
- The three-day forum brings together representatives of more than 100 countries, including 40 heads of state and government seeking to benefit from the projects.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte are among the headline guests.
- EU powers Germany and France sent ministers, but the US has dispatched only a low-level delegation.
- The leaders of Asian and African countries are expected to urge Beijing to reduce financing costs for Belt and Road projects.
A 'green' Belt and Road
Xi told the audience at the forum that the future of the BRI was "open, green and clean."
"Everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption," he said
The Chinese leader sought to allay fears about economic burdens and Beijing's growing power, saying the program is "not an exclusive club" and promotes "common development prosperity."
"We also need to ensure the commercial and fiscal sustainability of all projects so that they will achieve the intended goals as planned," he added.
Xi said China would also promote sustainable development "to protect the common home we live in."
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Approval from Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin told the forum that Belt and Road "fit perfectly" with the goals of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union.
The Union groups Russia with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in a common market.
The five states "unanimously supported the idea of linking the construction of the Eurasian Economic Community" and the Belt and Road, Putin said.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told reporters on the sidelines of the summit that the European Economic Area was keen to sign a memorandum of understanding on the initiative as a whole, rather than as individual states.
What is the Belt and Road project?
The Belt and Road initiative is the signature foreign policy project of President Xi Jinping. It's a strategy that involves infrastructure development and investment in 152 countries globally.
The aim is to reestablish traditional land-based connections (the "belt" part of the strategy) from China to other parts of Asia, Europe and beyond.
China also seeks to build strong sea connections — dubbed the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road — in the South China Sea, South Pacific and wider Indian Ocean. A northern Ice Silk Road is also envisioned.
Since the initiative was launched in 2013, China has invested some $90 billion (€81 billion) in projects, with banks supplying some $200 billion to $300 billion.
Earlier this month, China sought to reassure the European Union that it would respect the bloc's trading rules while seeking a greater economic foothold in eastern Europe.
nm/rc (AFP, Reuters, AP)