Economic review

28 leaders to attend B&R forum

2017-04-19 08:40:00 (Beijing Time)         Global Times

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Meeting hailed as another major 'home diplomacy' event

Leaders of 28 countries will attend the Belt and Road (B&R) Forum for International Cooperation next month, another major "home diplomacy" event for China after the Hangzhou G20 Summit in 2016.

The B&R Forum for International Cooperation will be held on May 14 and 15 in Beijing, and Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to attend the opening ceremony and host a round table summit of the leaders, Wang said Tuesday morning, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

"Since the start of the B&R initiative in 2013, the initiative has undergone three years' development, so we are at the key stage to comprehensively promote it, and this is the main reason why China is holding the forum" said Lin Minwang, a professor at the Institute of International Studies of Fudan University.

At the invitation of Xi, 28 heads of state and government leaders will attend the forum, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

In attendance will be academics, entrepreneurs and finance and media industry experts from 110 countries, and other guests include nine vice prime ministers, seven foreign ministers and 190 ministerial-level officials, and 89 heads and representatives from 61 international organizations. The total number of attendees will surpass 1,200.

This is another large-scale "home diplomacy" event for China after the Beijing Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in 2014 and the Hangzhou G20 Summit in 2016, Wang Yi said.

Although major Western leaders, except for Italy, will not attend, it will not affect the influence of the forum because the B&R initiative is intended to boost developing countries, helping them to achieve modernization, industrialization, and better participate in globalization, said Wang Yiwei, senior research fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at the Renmin University of China.

In May, there are also some important international events, such as a NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium and the G7 Summit in Taormina, Italy, so the overlapping timing is also a reason why major Western leaders cannot attend the forum, Wang Yiwei added.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not attend the forum.

India has some concerns about the B&R initiative. For instance, the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will go through Kashmir, a region disputed between India and Pakistan, so it makes India feel that the B&R initiative does not respect its sovereignty, Lin said.

Indian elites also consider China's invitation to cooperate in the B&R initiative presents New Delhi with a dilemma: on one hand it wants to cooperate with China on maritime issues, but on the other hand, it needs to restrain China's influence in the Indian Ocean, Lin noted.

Open to all

The B&R initiative does not have geographic boundaries, because essentially it is an initiative of international cooperation, and it could and should be open to every member among the international community, Wang Yi said.

In the past, people thought the B&R initiative's goal was to link Asia and Europe, and so it was not aimed at the rest of the world. This is wrong, said Jiang Shixue, a professor at Shanghai University and deputy director of the Institute for European Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

This time we see that leaders from Latin American and African countries like Argentina, Chile, Kenya and Ethiopia will attend the forum, so this proves that the B&R initiative has no geographic boundaries. It welcomes every country's participation and it will be welcomed by countries in any continent, Jiang stressed.

The essential elements are "communication on policies, connection via infrastructure, fluid trade, fluid financing and fluid people-to-people exchanges," Jiang said, adding that any international cooperation could be covered by the initiative as long as it fits with these elements, so there is no need to use geographic boundaries to limit international cooperation.

"This initiative is not a 'members-only club' but a 'circle of friends' … we are all equal partners as long as we all agree to the spirit of the Silk Road. Different countries can use their own way to join this initiative and share the benefits from the development," Wang Yi said.