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Ik Road + Add tomyFT China’s Xi hails Belt and Road as ‘project of the century’ Beijing forum opens with lavish promises of infrastructure financing for 65 nations ap wv ff in = Eas: Save ‘YesTEsoAy by: Charles Clover, Sherry Fel Ju and Lucy Hornby in Beijing Chinese president Xi Jinping hailed his country’s Belt and Road i ative as “the project of the century” as he announced sealed-up financing for a signature strategy that promises billions in investment and trade benefits. Delegates from more than 100 countries, including 28 heads of state, convened in a $1bn complex north of Beijing for the two-day summit that began on Sunday. Pride of place went to Russian president Vladimir Putin, while the largest economies in Asia and the west sent lower-level representatives. China used the forum to announce lavish new financing plans at a time when the US and Europe are scaling back their inter ‘ional commitments. Attendees pushed for greater clarity on the ambitious but hazily defined strategy. For Mr Xi, the forum is a chance to project political influence to two audiences: an outside world looking for global leadership amid unpredictability in Washington and the fallout of Brexit; and within China, where the president is positioning himself for his second term as head of the ruling Communist party. “Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and co-operation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit,” Mr Xi said in his opening speech. “We should foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win co-operation; and we should forge partnerships of dialogue with no confrontation and of friendship rather than alliance.” The initiative aims to expand China’s economic and political influence while addressing crippling industrial overcapacity at home. It is also a self-conscious evocation of past eras when China was at its most powerful. The “road” refers to the maritime trade routes traced by the eunuch admiral Zheng He at the height of the 14th-15th century Ming dynasty influence over Southeast Asia, while the “belt” refers to the silk road through central Asia that flourished during the four-century long Han dynasty two millennia ago and the 7th-10th century Tang, dynasty. ‘The modern strategy aims to raise China’s international influence while exporting a crippling surplus in domestic industrial capacity to countries around the world via Joans and investments. Putin-Xi embrace masks Belt and Road misgivings New Silk Road investment falls in 2016 Belt and Road initiative — in charts Comment: Xi’s project under threat from one-way traffic Heads of state flying to China for the forum have been eager to secure some of that largesse for their own countries, to help revive their economies following a multiyear slump in growth after the peak of the energy and commodities “supercycles” around 2012. “Xi wants to get everyone in a room together and give this idea another big political push,” said Sir Tom Troubridge, China head for PwC and vic British Business Council. “I can’t put a number on it but if it works half as well as ~chairman of the China China wants, it will still be the biggest infrastructure project in the world for years to come.” Scaled up financing support comes despite a 2016 pullback in Chinese inyestment into the 65 countries formally included in the strategy, while capital flowing into developed countries soared. Funding initiatives announced on Sunday include a Rmb1oobn ($14.5bn) contribution to China’s Silk Road Fund, Rmb250bn in special lending schemes to the China Development Bank and Rmb1gobn to the Export-Import Bank of China to support co-operation on infrastructure, industry capacity and financing. FT View ‘The Silk Road Fund was capitalised with $4obn when it was founded in 2014. In One Belt, One Road — 2015, China announced a $62bn capital and many questions injection into the CDB, Ex-Im Bank and debt-ridden Agricultural Bank of China, to China's global plan must not ‘ : prepare for increased lending in line with reproduce domestic economic problems what was at the time labelled the One Belt, One Road strategy. The Asian Infras ructure Investment Bank, the Chinese-led multilateral bank, has so far disbursed about $1.7bn in loans for nine projects through the AITB, most of which have been co-financed with other multilateral lenders. Despite Mr Xi’s reassurances that Beijing would not engage in “outdated geopolitical manoeuvrings”, China’s push abroad is not without controversy. Some of the most vocal opposition comes from India, which has been trading barbs with China over Himalayan boundaries while eyeing with distrust the planned $55bn China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which runs through territory claimed by New Delhi. India boycotted the summit. “No country can accept a project that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said a spokesman for its Ministry of External Affairs. And although China — and especially the AIIB — has been careful to depict its overseas investments as prioritising “green” or environmentally friendly projects, concerns are rising that the country’s rampant industrial pollution and deep reliance on coal will simply be duplicated elsewhere. China has been involved in 240 coal-fired power projects in 25 of the 65 Belt and Road countries, with India accounting for about half of the 251GW of installed capacity. However, Chinese investments in coal-fired plants abroad fell in the past year, according to a study by the Global Environmental Institute, a Chinese NGO. China strikes odd note with viral marketing effort Take Beethoven’s fifth and ninth symphonies, some English-language rap, photos of war and refugee camps and a peace symbol set against a blue sky. Add cartoon people applauding as Xi Jinping speaks about globalisation. Mash it up. The result is the China’s latest attempt at a viral video: this time to convince the world that China has the win-win formula for peace, shared prosperity and combating environmental pollution. “What’s wrong with the world? What can we do? China has a solution,” s the video, set to a catchy tune. “A community of shared future for mankind is the final solution.” English-language propaganda videos aimed at the outside world have become one of the odder features of China under Mr Xi, who is seeking to take on the mantle of global leadership as the US and Europe become transfixed with domestic polities. For those who could not make it to Beijing this weekend, there are the “Belt and Road Bedtime stories”, a series of videos produced by state-owned English-language newspaper China Daily. “This forum is to tell the world about the Belt and Road, like Iam telling you,” a man explains to his blonde daughter as he tucks her in to bed before going on a business trip. “Yes, ba.ba,” she replies, using the Chinese word for father. Additional reporting by David Keohane in Mumbai Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. 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