Five things to watch as China’s belt and road plan unfolds

The first summit may be over, but Beijing’s plan to chart a new Silk Road is just getting under way

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 May, 2017, 7:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 May, 2017, 12:54pm

China wrapped up its first “Belt and Road Initiative” forum on Monday with 29 state leaders and more than 1,000 foreign government representatives in attendance. Here are five things to watch as the plan continues to unfold.

1. In his address wrapping up the two-day forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Monday that China would host a second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in 2019. China will also set up a consultation committee and liaison office in preparation for the next summit, which looks set to become a regular showcase for China’s diplomatic might and progress in the ambitious globalisation plan.

2. As part of Beijing’s efforts to boost global trade, China will hold an international import trade expo next year to facilitate the entry of foreign products into the Chinese market. Beijing also promised to import US$2 trillion worth of products from “Belt and Road” countries over the next five years.

3. Xi promised a major funding boost for his new Silk Road, with an additional 100 billion yuan (US$14.5 billion) going into the Silk Road Fund. The China Development Bank and Export-Import Bank of China will set up special lending schemes – worth 250 billion yuan and 130 billion yuan respectively – to support infrastructure projects. In addition, China will provide 60 billion yuan over the next three years for poverty alleviation in developing countries along the new Silk Road.

4. In his closing address, Xi said a total of 68 nations and international organisations had signed cooperation agreements with China as part of the plan. He added that more than 270 cooperation projects or agreements had been signed during the summit.

5. China still needs to address lingering scepticism among different countries. The US and Japan have expressed doubts about the scheme, despite sending representatives to the summit. Meanwhile, India boycotted the forum over a dispute about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passing through Kashmir. Another setback was the decision by several European countries, including France, Germany and Britain, not to sign a trade statement at the summit. They said the initiative was not clear on public procurement, or social and environmental standards.