Press Trust of India | Beijing | Last Updated at April 27 2019 11:23 IST
Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (not pictured) during the bilateral meeting of the Second Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China. Photo: Reuters
Addressing a roundtable meeting of the 37 heads of states and governments who attended the 2nd Belt and Road Forum (BRF), which would close on Saturday, Xi again stressed that the trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would focus on common development of all the participating countries and their people.
"We must implement the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits to see that all voices are heard, all reached their full potential and all stand to benefit," the Chinese President said.
The BRI must be open, clean and green and follow high standards, people centred sustainable approach, he said, adding that it should be aligned to the United Nations' sustainable development agenda.
"Align our cooperation with universally accepted rules, standards and best practices and pursue social and economic progress and environmental protection in a balanced way. The BRI should be beneficial to all and deliver common development," Xi said.
Those attended the BRF meeting included Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and heads of several Asian, African and Latin American countries besides heads of the UN and the IMF. India and the US skipped the meeting.
India, which boycotted the first BRF meeting held in 2017 over its objections to the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), skipped its second edition for the same reasons.
India has also been airing its concerns over the BRI financing, saying that connectivity initiatives must follow principles of financial responsibility to avoid projects that would create unsustainable debt burden for communities.
This time the US has emerged as a fierce critic of the BRI, saying that its predatory financing is leaving the smaller countries in heavy debt.
The concerns grew louder after Chinaacquired Sri Lanka's Hambantota port for a 99-year lease as a debt swap.
The heavy Chinese financing of the $60 billion CPEC also raised concerns over Pakistan's ability to pay back.
China has clarified that less than 20 per cent of the CPEC projects are based on loans provided by it and rest of the 80 per cent ventures are either directly invested by Beijing or, used Chinese grants.
The BRI was launched by President Xi when he came to power in 2013. It aims to link southeast Asia, central Asia, the Gulf region, Africa and Europe with a network of land and sea routes.
China is doling out huge sums of money for infrastructure projects in countries from Asia to Africa and Europe, enhancing its global influence.
In his speech at the opening ceremony of the 2nd BRF on Friday, Xi allayed fears that China is using the BRI as a geopolitical tool to attain superpower status.
He said the BRI is "not an exclusive club".
"Everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption," he said.
Xi said that China will not engage in beggar-thy-neighbour currency devaluation.
China will continue to improve the exchange rate formation mechanism of its currency and keep the exchange rate generally stable on a reasonable and balanced level, he said.
Xi said the joint building of the Belt and Road has opened up new space for the world's economic growth and it has also created a new platform to boost international trade and investment, expanded new practices to optimise global economic governance, and made new contributions to improving people's well-being in all countries.
Besides Putin and Khan, Nepal President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, Myanmar state councillor Aung San Suu Kyi are among the top leaders taking part in the event. France, Germany, the UK, Spain, Japan, South Korea and the EU sent high-level representatives.
China said representatives from 150 countries and international organisations are taking part in it.
Commenting on the BRF meeting, Li Xiangyang - director of China's National Institute of International Strategy - said that "the BRI has helped China expand its global friendship network which shows that China is playing an increasingly pivotal role in promoting regional development and safeguarding multilateralism".
The initiative, which focuses on utilising market and economic resources to explore new diplomatic relations with other countries, also drives the country's transition to economic diplomacy, Li told Global Times on Saturday.