Beijing: China will host a second global meeting on its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) here next month, which Foreign Minister Wang Yi said would be “much bigger” that the first.
The number of heads of state and government expected to attend the next month’s meeting will be much more than that of the first Belt and Road Forum (BRF), Wang told annual media conference here.
It will be a “much bigger event” with thousands of delegates from over 100 countries expected to attend, he said.
The BRI includes USD 60-billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor which India opposes as it traverses through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The US, India and several other countries have raised concerns over the BRI as China doled out huge loans to smaller countries for infrastructure projects without taking into consideration their ability to pay back the money.
India boycotted the first BRF meet held in 2017, which was attended by 29 heads of state and government, the UN Secretary General and heads of World Bank and IMF and a host of officials from different parts of the world.
Defending the BRI, Wang refuted US, Indian and several other countries criticism that the initiative is driving smaller countries in debt traps.
The BRI is not a “debt trap” that some countries may fall into but an “economic pie” that benefits local population, Wang said.
“It is not a geopolitical tool, but a great opportunity for shared development,” he said.
The initiative has become the world’s largest platform for international cooperation, he said, adding that a total of 123 countries and 29 international organisations have signed the BRI agreements with China.
“They have cast a vote of support and confidence in the BRI,” he said.
He cited various projects in different countries to prove his point.
“Thanks to the BRI, east Africa now has its first expressway. Maldives has built its first inter-island bridge. Belarus is able to produce sedans. Kazakhstan is connected to the sea. Southeast Asia is constructing a high-speed railway. And Eurasian continent is benefiting from the longest distance freight train service,” he added.