Major Western leaders snub China’s New Silk Road summit?
While China has portrayed the New Silk Road as a genuine effort to share the bounty of China’s economic development, many Western countries are concerned about transparency in the project and are suspicious about China’s broader political intents
Ben Blanchard Beijing
Only one country from the Group of Seven (G7) nations—Italy—is attending China's most important diplomatic event of the year: a summit next month on President Xi Jinping's New Silk Road strategy. China's foreign minister, however, has refused to read the gesture as a snub.
Xi has championed what China formally calls the “One Belt, One Road” or OBOR initiative to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe, a landmark programme to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, including railways, ports and power grids.
China has dedicated $40 billion to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the $50 billion China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Diplomatic sources in Beijing said that China had hoped for at least some senior Western leaders to attend the summit, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, to burnish the plan’s international credentials and make it less China-centric. But a list of attendees announced by Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday included only one leader from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialised nations—Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni who took over in December after his predecessor quit following a crushing defeat in a reform referendum.
Wang confirmed the presence of the Presidents of Russia and the Philippines as among 28 leaders who will attend the summit, along with the Spanish, Greek, Hungarian, Serb and Polish Prime Ministers and Swiss and Czech Presidents.
“This is a positive, cooperative agreement, and we don’t want to politicise it,” Wang told reporters when asked if China was upset at the absence of most major Western leaders.