Chinese leader Xi Jinping spells out ambitious Asia vision at Boao Forum
One Belt, One Road strategy benefits 'all nations', says president as he underlines China's economic health and its vision for integration
President Xi Jinping yesterday reassured the world that China's economy remained strong, as he vowed his initiative to boost links with Asian and European countries would provide trade and investment opportunities to "all nations".
Addressing the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan province, Xi said China welcomed all countries to join the Beijing-led "One Belt, One Road" initiative, which aims to improve regional connectivity in a project inspired by the ancient Silk Road. He stressed the project was not meant to replace existing economic partnerships.
"The programmes of development will be open and inclusive, not exclusive. They will be a real chorus comprising all countries along the routes, not a solo [effort] for China," Xi said.
Xi's comments came as China released a blueprint outlining its vision for linking infrastructure, finance and telecommunications, and removing trade barriers, along the route.
The "One Belt, One Road" initiative has various threads. The Silk Road Economic Belt focuses on linking China, Central Asia, Russia and the Baltic states; linking China to the Gulf and Mediterranean through Central Asia and West Asia; and connecting China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Indian Ocean. The 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road will stretch from China to Europe through the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean in one route, and from China to the South Pacific in the other.
Xi said China's economy would continue to be a major driving force for Asia even though it forecast its rate of growth to slow. "As the economy continues to grow in size, around 7 per cent growth would be quite impressive, and the momentum this would generate would be larger than the double-digit growth of previous years," Xi said.
The Chinese economy grew 7.4 per cent last year, its lowest increase in 24 years.
"When looking at China's economy, one should not focus only on the growth rate," Xi said. "We will focus on improving quality and efficiency, and give even greater priority to shifting the growth model and adjusting the structure of development.
"This new normal of the Chinese economy will continue to bring more opportunities for trade growth and development for the countries of Asia and beyond," Xi said.
In the next five years, China would import more than US$10 trillion worth of goods, its investment abroad would exceed US$500 billion, and Chinese tourists would make more than 500 million trips abroad, all of which would bring opportunities to the rest of the world.
In remarks apparently aimed at Asian neighbours, Xi said all countries, regardless of size, should be treated as equals and that China wanted peace. "A big country has a bigger responsibility for peace and development in the region and world, not a greater monopoly over regional and global issues," he said.
He said Asia needed to build "a community of common destiny" that would contribute to global prosperity.
Without specifying regional disputes, Xi said China was committed to resolving conflicts peacefully. "China has in the past 100 years or more suffered turmoil and war, and the Chinese people will never impose upon other countries or people the tragic history our own people have experienced," Xi said.
A document released yesterday by the National Development and Reform Commission said China would support countries along the route with good credit ratings to issue renminbi bonds in China.
It also encouraged "qualified Chinese financial institutions to issue bonds in both renminbi and foreign currencies outside China, and use the funds collected in countries along the Belt and Road".
Countries should promote the development of the bond market in Asia, it said.
Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said Hong Kong's "advantages in financing and professional services will be able to contribute to the 'One Belt, One Road' plan".
Areas of cooperation:
Infrastructure: construction of roads, rail and ports
Fibre-optic networks: accelerate cross-border cable construction, improve satellite information channels
Trade: eliminate investment barriers such as customs and other regulations
Mutual investments: expand and develop agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, fishery, agricultural machinery
Energy: increase coal, oil, gas, metal, mineral and other traditional energy development. Promote hydropower, nuclear power, wind, solar and other clean renewables