China's Xi: Belt and Road Initiative to benefit all

BEIJING, China (UPDATED) – Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the Belt and Road Forum on International Cooperation in front of other world leaders on Sunday, May 14, in Beijing.

From the China National Convention Center, Xi called the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) the "project of the century," and one that opens doors for all countries by promoting globalization and connectivity.

"In the coming two days, I hope that by engaging in full exchange of views we will contribute to pursuing the Belt and Road Initiative, a project of the century, so that it will bring benefit to people across the world," he said.

He announced additional $124 billion funding for loans and grants under the BRI. Of this, $8.7 billion will be dedicated to developing countries.

Xi, architect of the BRI, seemed to address concerns of some countries that the China-led initiative will only redound to the benefit of the Asian giant and not take into consideration the individual development plans of other countries.

His speech was laden with placating language emphasizing the inclusiveness of the BRI.

"The pursuit of this initiative stems from extensive consultation and its benefit will be shared by us all," he said. (WATCH: VLOG: Beijing puts best foot forward for Belt and Road Forum)

Xi spoke of "win-win" cooperation and partnerships sans confrontation.

"We should foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation, and we should forge partnerships of dialogue with no confrontation and of friendship rather than alliance," he said.

Xi also tapped into the collective history and memory of the ancient Silk Road trade routes which connected Asia, Europe, and Africa centuries ago.

"These ancient silk routes opened windows of friendly exchanges among nations, adding a splendid chapter in the history of human progress," said the Chinese President.

"The Silk Road spirit has become a huge heritage of human civilization, peace and cooperation," he added.

Putin, Erdogan react

Xi's keynote speech was followed by speeches from Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

All 3 leaders praised the BRI as a boost to globalization. Putin slammed the "new normal" of protectionism and called for new approaches to globalization.

"We should demonstrate to the world community an example of another approach, one that considers equality, respect for sovereignty," he said.

Erdogan stressed that the BRI should be a "win-win" deal for it to "pave a new era of stability."

Guterres, meanwhile, reminded all leaders present of the need to fight poverty and bring prosperity for all peoples.

"The tide of globalization is yet to lift all boats...Inequalities within and between countries are causing tensions and conflicts," he said.

He likened the BRI to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. Both initiatives, he said, aim to provide opportunities to more people and promote connectivity.

Guterres also recognized the BRI as heralding a new world order in which not just one power dominates. He espoused the value of multilateralism in such a world.

"A multipolar world needs multilateral cooperation," he said.

The two-day Belt and Road Forum gathers representatives of around 100 countries, 29 of which are heads of state and government, to discuss the opportunities and challenges facing China's grand vision of a Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

This "belt" and "road" will span 65 countries and 3 continents, and will see China shelling out billions of dollars to fund various infrastructure projects in countries interested in taking part in the initiative. (READ: Will China help the Philippines achieve its railway dreams?)

Some 50 cooperation agreements are expected to be signed by the end of the forum. (READ: What to expect from Duterte at China's Belt and Road Forum– Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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