At China’s BRI meet, President Xi skips fresh funds pledge amid talk of debt-trap

Chinese president Xi Jinping announced on Friday the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) was for high-quality, sustainable and shared development but did not pledge new funds for the multi-billion dollar connectivity project.

The principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and shared benefits for the BRI should be upheld, Xi told while delivering the keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) in Beijing.

India has skipped the BRF as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, raising New Delhi’s sovereignty interests.

The BRI, launched in 2013, has also been criticized for ensnaring smaller countries into “debt-trap diplomacy” and high cost of projects.

Xi on Friday sought to allay those fears, talking about win-win cooperation among countries participating in BRI.

He, as quoted by official news agency, Xinhua, highlighted “…building the infrastructure of high quality, sustainability, risk resilience, reasonable pricing, inclusiveness, and accessibility under the BRI”.

“The open, green and clean approaches should be adhered to,” Xi stated, adding: “The goals of high-standard, livelihood-improving, and sustainable development should be achieved.”

He stated China will increase imports of goods and services on a larger scale, and will further lower its tariff rates. Xi added that China would continuously open up its market and welcome quality products from around the world including more competitive farm produces finished products and services.

In his 2017 speech at the first BRI forum, Xi had stated: “China will scale up financing support for the BRI by contributing an additional RMB 100 billion to the Silk Road Fund, and we encourage financial institutions to conduct overseas RMB fund business with an estimated amount of about RMB 300 billion.”

This time, he didn’t make any such pledge.

The Chinese president also said China will continue to offer to fund for projects under the Belt and Road initiative but also welcomes other organizations’ participation in financing.

Paul Haenle from the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center based at Tsinghua University in Beijing, said BRI has asked many questions.

“Too often, Belt and Road projects have been prone to corruption while severely lacking in economic sustainability, regulatory transparency, and good governance. Together, these deficits lead to projects that threaten sovereignty, export sub-standard norms, and practices, and cause concerns over the initiative’s geostrategic implications,” Haenle stated in a statement.


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