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China fights fears over Belt and Road

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China fights fears over Belt and Road

China fights fears over Belt and Road

The Belt and Road initiative championed by Xi Jinping has become mired in controversy, with some partner nations bemoaning the high cost of projects.

The country is hosting a summit seeking to allay criticism that the infrastructure plan to boost trade and investment creates a heavy burden for some nations.

Ryan Brooks reports.


China fights fears over Belt and Road

China is trying to face the controversy swirling around its Belt and Road initiative.

Leader Xi Jinping spoke Friday (April 26) in front of a number of leaders from Pakistan, among the biggest receivers of funds from Xi's grand plan, to Italy, who recently became the first G7 country to sign on.

(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE PRESIDENT XI JINPING, SAYING: "(The aim of building the belt and road is to) work together to face the risks and challenges facing mankind, realise win-win cooperation and development together." It was the opening of a second summit on the infrastructure plan.

Western countries say its only about expanding Chinese influence and will trap poorer countries in debt.

So in this summit - as Reuters' Ben Blanchard reports - China is looking to prove its good intentions.

(SOUNDBITE)(English) REUTERS SENIOR CHINA CORRESPONDENT, BEN BLANCHARD, SAYING: "We saw today President Xi talking about sustainability, talking about -using the word 'green' a lot, to discuss the importance of environmental sustainability.

So China does seem to be taking onboard some of these criticisms. It does want the Belt and Road to be popularly received around the world and it doesn't like the constant sort of background noise from certain quarters, um affecting people's perceptions of it." Since 2013, data provider Refinitiv shows the value of Belt and Road projects totals some three-and-a-half trillion dollars.

While most projects are continuing as planned, some have hit snags.

Among the most vocal critics- is the United States.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO, SAYING: "It is not okay to engage in predatory lending practices." (SOUNDBITE)(English) REUTERS SENIOR CHINA CORRESPONDENT, BEN BLANCHARD, SAYING: "In the last few months, the U.S. officials have been stepping up their criticism of Belt and Road, talking about debt traps, lack of transparency, things like that.

Now the last Belt and Road forum two years ago, the U.S. did actually send a relatively senior delegation this time however, no U.S. officials have come from Washington to attend.

We don't actually know who is attending for the United States , so eventually these closer allies of the United States.

Britain is an obvious example, France, Germany, are presumably going to have to make a choice about to what extent do they continue to engage in Belt and Road or indeed do they formally sign up to it, or do they adopt the U.S. approach and try to wash their hands of it." Britain, France and Germany have all sent senior officials this year.

The UK's finance minister spoke to Reuters on the sidelines and called Belt and Road a "vision." After Brexit, the UK will be looking for ways to reinvent itself and Xi's vision may be a start.

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