In a speech to a regional forum Saturday, Mr. Xi presented China as a partner willing to "jointly build a regional order that is more favorable to Asia and the world." He highlighted a new China-led infrastructure bank and other initiatives designed to leverage hundreds of billions of dollars to finance railways, ports and other development projects, and foster regional economic integration.
Throughout the 30-minute speech, Mr. Xi stressed that China's vision, while centered on Asia, was open to participation by all countries. He was careful not to place China at the center of this emerging order, as some regional politicians and security experts have warned could happen.
But Mr. Xi said given China's size, it will naturally play a larger role. "Being a big country means shouldering greater responsibilities for the region, as opposed to seeking greater monopoly over regional and world affairs," Mr. Xi told the Boao Forum for Asia, an annual China-sponsored conference named for the southern seaside town where it is held.
The speech was the latest by Mr. Xi to articulate his government's plans to use China's growing power to reshape economic and security arrangements in the region--a change from recent decades when Beijing largely worked within a U.S. and Western-dominated international system.
At the center of these efforts is the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and plans to build infrastructure across Asia and along the maritime routes that historically connected China to the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
The plans have been welcomed by many countries and companies throughout the region, which the Asian Development Bank estimates is in need of trillions of dollars of infrastructure. Close U.S. allies and other governments have signed on to the infrastructure bank, despite concerns from Washington about the way the bank will be run.
Russia became the latest to join, with Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov announcing Moscow's participation in Boao on Saturday. Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott will also announce Sunday that Canberra intends to sign up, Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said Saturday.
In an illustration of the breadth of China's plans, dignitaries attending Mr. Xi's speech included government leaders from 15 countries, including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Armenia and Austria--but there was no high-level representation by the U.S.
The Boao Forum, which was conceived as an Asian version of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland, has typically focused on business and economic matters.
Mr. Xi's speech was notable for touching upon security issues--although he didn't raise China's territorial disputes with Japan and the Philippines.
Without referring to the U.S. by name, Mr. Xi suggested the security alliances that have underpinned Washington's role in the region should be done away with. "No country could have its own security assured without the security of other countries, or of the wider world," Mr. Xi said. "The Cold-War mentality should be truly discarded and new security concepts be nurtured as we explore a path for Asia that ensures security for all."
Mr. Xi held out the prospects that China's own economic growth, even if slowing, would bring opportunities for the region. Over the next five years, he said, China would import $10 trillion in goods, and invest $500 billion abroad.
Beijing's more expansive economic plans have also stirred up concerns that China may seek to use its largess for political and other goals. "There is concern that this is about China's dominance," Mari Pangestu, a former Indonesian trade minister, said at a Boao panel discussion Friday. "This is a word of caution. China is saying that this is open...I think we have to make sure that this is the case."
However, to realize its visions, China will need the assistance of private companies and other lending institutions, such as the World Bank and Asian Development Bank, officials and business executives said
China's planned infrastructure bank, which is due to start operations this year, will have $100 billion in capital. Properly borrowed against, that pool could provide $1.3 trillion in financing--still short of the trillions in estimated infrastructure demand, according to Fred Hu, a founding partner of Primavera Capital Group.
In his speech, Mr. Xi said that plans to develop the land and maritime routes connecting China to Asia and beyond had drawn interest from 60 countries and international organizations. The "initiative is not meant as rhetoric," he said. "It represents real work that could be seen and felt to bring real benefits to countries and the region."
Courtesy - MarketWatch