China’s Belt and Road Initiative gets Silk Road Expo boost
The Fifth Silk Road International Exposition, which aims to promote China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), has been hailed a success after cooperation deals were signed valued at US$24.6bn.
The five-day event, which attracted 1,900 guests from 98 countries, was held in Xi’an in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.
Foreign investment projects agreed at the expo – which this year had the theme Interconnection, Contribution and Shared Benefits – totalled US$7.7bn.
Speaking at the launch of the event, China Foreign Minister Wang Yi said: “All nations now face the daunting task of combatting COVID-19, stabilising the economy and improving peoples’ livelihoods. There is a greater need for joint responses to these challenges.”
Is the Belt and Road Initiative losing momentum?
The Belt and Road Initiative was launched in 2013 by China as it seeks to build trade and infrastructure networks with countries along the ancient Silk Road.
Typical investments include infrastructure projects such as ports, railways, road networks, airports and dams.
China invests billions of dollars in BRI countries each year, with US$47bn in 2020 – a decline of 54% on the previous year, and US$78bn less than its peak in 2015.
As of 2020, 140 countries had signed a cooperation agreement with China for the BRI. Only 57 of those countries are located in the corridor from China to Europe, according to data from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
Last month (April 2021), US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met in Washington and discussed an alternative to BRI that would include key allies like the UK.
According to official data, Japan is already investing heavily in foreign infrastructure projects, and has pledged US$367bn in Southeast Asia compared to China’s US$255bn.