The leaders of 37 countries are gathering in Beijing for Saturday’s summit on the Belt and Road initiative, the Chinese project of the New Silk Road.
The purpose of the New Silk Road is to expand global trade links, through the financing of railway routes, ports, roads.
According to many analysts, the New Silk Road represents a bold attempt to extend China’s geopolitical influence to a global level.
According to others, it is an opportunity to improve international connections and for increasing trade with China.
The United States criticized this attempt.
In particular, efforts were made to focus on China’s so-called “debt diplomacy.”
Chinese officials for their part sought to address these project-related concerns.
China has put in over $ 1 trillion in investment.
Chinese Finance Minister Liu Kun stated that China intends to make the new silk road initiative sustainable, and prevent the risks of indebtedness of the participating countries.
Last year Foreign Minister Wang Yi declared that it was not a geo-strategic concept, but an effort to build a shared future for the whole of humanity.
Among the leaders of the 37 countries, Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte will also be present.
Italy was the first G7 country to sign the Belt and Road Initiative project, raising numerous concerns from its historical allies.
Among the other countries that sent leaders or delegations are Indonesia, Serbia, Myanmar, and Kenya.
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Countries that previously attended but have chosen not to come this year include Turkey, which has publicly criticized China for its treatment of Uighurs in Xinjiang, Poland, Spain, Fiji, Sri Lanka, and Argentina.
Practically all the major Western governments are not attending the event, apart from Italy.
Western governments, starting with the United States in fact, show great concern.
The Belt and Road Initiative is seen as a sort of Chinese Trojan horse.
Also, other countries that already adhere to the project like Sri Lanka and Pakistan have expressed concern because of the increased Chinese influence and the increase in debt.
Sri Lanka was particularly affected – in 2017 it had to transfer control of a port to China to repay foreign loans.