China wants ‘One Belt, One Road’ investments under wraps

13 May 2017


As Beijing prepares for President Xi Jinping's much-hyped trade summit of 29 world leaders, a Chinese official has told local journalists to focus on the inclusiveness of China's 'One Belt, One Road' initiative and refrain from reporting the amount of Chinese investment in specific countries along the route.

Leaders from 29 nations will gather in the Chinese capital this weekend for China's ambitious new Silk Road initiative that aims to develop economic links between Asia, Africa and Europe. Chinese investment could reach up to $130 billion annually over the next five years.

The media hype around the event is reportedly unprecedented, as billboards and bus stands across Beijing, a the city of 22 million are spelling out the benefits of global trade, international cooperation and economic growth.

The Chinese slogan "One Belt, One Road" dominates headlines. State-controlled social media is pumping out rap and rock songs, and even a bedtime children's story, in an attempt to explain what this actually means.

But meanwhile a provincial official from the eastern province of Fujian told a group of Chinese reporters after a press briefing that they should not report on China's investment in countries along the Belt and Road routes, due to the sensitivity of the matter.

''You reporters should focus on the theme of developing together, not what we (China) do with certain countries because that could make other countries uncomfortable," the official said.

Chinese media coverage of the two-day Belt and Road Forum, due to kick off on Sunday, has been relentlessly upbeat. China has also rejected suggestions that the new Silk Road is about Beijing trying to dominate the world and mould it to its liking, saying it is good for all and anyone can join.

Insisting that the initiative that is open to all nations, some officials at the Fujian press conference denied that there were just 65 countries under the initiative, saying there was no such specific number.

 "What I can tell you is that we have repeatedly said the Belt and Road is an open and inclusive proposal," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Friday.

"The Belt and Road does not have this concept of members. Anyone can join it.''

Even countries not situated on the Silk Road - old or new - have been welcome to join the initiative. The leaders of Chile and Argentina will be attending the summit, as well as representatives from the United States.

President Xi Jinping first proposed the Belt and Road initiative in 2013. Since then, he has used it to help portray China as an open economy, distinct from a rising wave of global protectionism.

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