Nearly 40 foreign heads of state to attend China's Belt and Road forum

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi arrives for the press briefing on the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing on April 19, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BEIJING - Chinese President Xi Jinping will host nearly 40 heads of state next week at the second Belt and Road forum, which is expected to produce more deals for companies and banks that want in on the latter-day Silk Road mega-project.

The strong showing is a testament to the project's standing despite its multiple criticisms, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday (April 19).

All 10 Asean leaders including Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will take part in a high-level meeting at Beijing's National Convention Centre and a leaders' roundtable at Yanqi Lake in the suburb of Huairou.

The other 27 heads of state will include Russian President Vladimir Putin; Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz; Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras; Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán; Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan.

"We must let the facts speak for themselves," said Mr Wang when asked about the controversies that have surrounded China's signature diplomatic and economic campaign. It has, among other things, been accused of saddling developing countries with unsustainable debt.

"Nearly 40 foreign leaders and over 150 representatives are coming. They, through their actions, have already given the Belt and Road Initiative a vote of confidence," he told reporters at a news conference at the foreign ministry.

Based on figures released by China's top economic planner last week, the total trade volume between China and Belt and Road participating countries exceeded US$6 trillion (S$8.1 trillion) from 2013 to 2018, while China has so far chalked up US$80 billion in direct foreign investment in these countries.

China also says it has inked 173 deals with 125 countries and 29 international organisations.

Mr Wang said close to 5,000 participants from over 150 countries and 90 international organisations such as the United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund will be at the meeting, which trumps the first forum held two years ago. Then, 29 heads of state and representatives from more than 130 countries attended, including National Development Minister Lawrence Wong.

This year's event from April 25 to 27 will feature 12 thematic sub-forums and, for the first time, a CEO conference involving 800 business leaders which Mr Wang described as "a platform for matchmaking".

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