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China's Belt and Road summit kicking off in Beijing

October 16, 2023

China is hosting representatives from 130 countries marking the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Russian President Putin is expected to attend in a further boost to Moscow's ties with Beijing.

Lavrov shakes hands with Wang
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met his Chinese counterpart in Beijing ahead of the BRI forumImage: Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service/AP Photo/picture alliance

This week,China is hosting representatives of 130 countries for a summit marking the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) forum, Beijing's global international infrastructure  scheme, which is seen as a key pillar of President Xi Jinping's efforts to extend China's international reach. 

Under the BRI Chinese companies have built ports, roads, railways, power plants and other infrastructure across the world in order to boost trade and economic growth.

However, massive loans from Beijing that helped fund these projects have been criticized for saddling some poorer countries with debt

China-Russia ties in focus 

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov already arrived in Beijing on Monday and met with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi. 

"We consider this movement, this project as an important part of promoting cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual benefit throughout the Eurasian continent," he said after the meeting.

Lavrov and Wang discussed resolving the Ukraine war with "political and diplomatic methods," and also talked about the growing conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza. 

Since the beginning of the war on Ukraine, Russia and China have strengthened their energy ties. Western nations have criticized the partnership, but Moscow maintains that no international norms have been flouted in this agreement.

Russia's Foreign Ministry said Monday that Lavrov is expected visit North Korea on Wednesday and Thursday, following up on a meeting last month between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin is slated to arrive in Beijing late Monday according to Chinese officials, although his visit has not been officially confirmed on the Russian side.

The BRI forum would be Putin's first trip to a major global power since Russia launched its war on Ukraine, along with the subsequent sanctions by Western nations against Russia.

Others leaders from Africa, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East will also attend the Belt and Road Forum, whose main events are on Wednesday. Representatives from Afghanistan's Taliban are also set to attend.

The highest-level European leader attending this week's summit is Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. 

On Monday, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe also arrived in Beijing. 

Sri Lanka's woes linked to China

Israel-Hamas war looms over summit 

The BRI forum this year is somewhat overshadowed by the Israel-Gaza conflict, with China using the occasion to weigh in, as Beijing seeks to boost its diplomatic presence in the Middle East.  

In Beijing's most direct remarks since the Hamas militant group launched a large-scale terror attack on Israel, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Sunday condemned Israel's actions for going "beyond the scope of self-defense" and called for it to "cease its collective punishment of the people of Gaza." 

Beijing has been criticized, mainly by Western officials, for not naming Hamas in statements on the Israel-Gaza conflict. 

Wang spoke on Sunday with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who called on China to use its "influence" in the Middle East to push for calm. 

tg/wmr (AFP, AP, Reuters)