China's president Xi attempts to reassure on Asian investment, economy

BEIJING (AFP) - China's President Xi Jinping said Saturday that Beijing's new Asian investment schemes do not aim to displace existing regional programmes, after US scepticism about the Beijing-backed AIIB bank.

China is expanding its financial clout in Asia with the founding of a "Belt and Road" scheme to invest in regional transport links, as well as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), a multinational lender that the United States perceives as a threat to the Washington-led World Bank.

Xi told a regional summit in southern China that the "Belt and Road" scheme had "no intention of replacing existing mechanisms or initiatives for regional cooperation", the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

"All countries along the routes in Asia, as well as China's friends and partners around the world" are invited to take part in the programme as well as the AIIB, Xi added, according to Xinhua.

But Xi repeated earlier calls for a "new security concept" in Asia, which has been seen by Western analysts as a push by China to dilute US influence in the Pacific.

The US has reportedly lobbied hard to prevent its Western allies from signing up to the AIIB - apparently to little avail, with Germany, France and Britain all expressing an intention to join.

Xi, who leads China's ruling Communist party, also sought to reassure fears on China's economy, which grew at its slowest pace in nearly 25 years last year.

He said that observers should "not look at the growth rate only," when assessing economic health, arguing that economic efficiency was a more important measure.