World

China aiming for new era of globalisation

Beijing to host summit on new Silk Road project

BEIJING: China will host a summit on Sunday showcasing its ambitious drive to revive ancient Silk Road trade routes and lead a new era of globalisation, just as Washington turns inward in favour of "America First" policies.

Leaders from 28 nations, including Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will attend the two-day meeting at Yanqi Lake, located in a Beijing suburb near the Great Wall.

But Western powers seem less enthusiastic about the project, with Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni the only leader coming from the Group of Seven industrialised nations.

The forum will promote President Xi Jinping's One Belt, One Road Initiative (OBOR), a massive Chinese-bankrolled infrastructure project to link the country with Africa, Asia and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads and industrial parks.

China's push comes as Washington's leadership in global trade is changing under US President Donald Trump's nationalist "America First" stance.

In Europe, anti-globalisation sentiment has also grown among voters and the continent has been rattled by Britain's decision to leave the EU.

"There is a pressing need in today's world to have a shared, open and inclusive cooperation platform... to jointly tackle global challenges," Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters ahead of the summit.

"What we need is not a hero that acts alone, but partners of cooperation that stick together," he said.

OBOR spans some 65 countries representing 60 per cent of the global population and around a third of global GDP. The China Development Bank alone has earmarked US$890 billion (S$1,250 billion) for some 900 projects.

Analysts are sceptical that the Asian giant can take the lead in global commerce, while also cautioning that an integrated world trade system where China's ruling Communist party sets the rules could come with serious risks and hidden costs.

The European Union's ambassador to Beijing, Mr Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, recalled that EU companies have repeatedly complained about unequal market access in China.

"We hope China will implement domestically what it is preaching internationally," Mr Schweisgut told reporters on Tuesday. "The Chinese market, when it comes to investment, is not as open as the European market is to Chinese companies."

But Europe's large absence is a "missed opportunity" indicative of a "very inward-looking, very Eurocentric" outlook on the rise as leaders have less to gain politically at home from engagement with China, said Mr Jean-Pierre Lehmann of Switzerland's IMD business school.

"China's a reality and it's not going to go away. We can make things better by engaging with China instead of needlessly containing it," he said.- AFP

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