Xi Vows to Further Open Up China at Belt and Road Forum

27 Oct 2023

By Kelly Wang

President Xi Jinping vowed to further open up the Chinese market to the world with an emphasis on free trade and expanding the digital economy as he spelled out major steps that China will take in pursuing “high-quality cooperation” with Belt and Road partners during a high-level forum Wednesday.

China will remove all restrictions on foreign investment in the manufacturing sector and establish free trade agreements with more countries, Xi said in an address to world leaders at the opening ceremony of the Third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

The country will also establish pilot zones for e-commerce cooperation, hold an annual Global Digital Trade Expo and expand traditional infrastructure projects, the president said.

“We will further advance high-standard opening-up in cross-border service trade and investment, expand market access for digital and other products, and deepen reform in areas including the state-owned enterprises, digital economy, intellectual property and government procurement,” Xi said, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Representatives from more than 140 countries and 30 international organizations attended the two-day event, which kicked off Tuesday marking the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative. Among them were Russian President Vladimir Putin in a rare international appearance since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Putin praised China’s achievements through the Belt and Road Initiative, which he said “rhymes with our idea of creating a greater Eurasian partnership as an area of cooperation and interaction among like-minded nations,” according to a Kremlin statement.

“Under the difficult present-day conditions, it is particularly relevant to maintain close foreign policy coordination,” Putin said during a three-hour conversation with Xi following the opening ceremony. They also discussed the Middle East and Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

Leaders from Argentina, Ethiopia, Indonesia and Kazakhstan as well as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also attended the forum and delivered speeches at the opening ceremony.

Guterres noted in his address that China has become a major financer of development projects and that the Belt and Road Initiative has launched more than 3,000 projects and “galvanized” nearly $1 trillion in investment.

Speaking at the Great Hall of the People, Xi reiterated that China opposes decoupling and urged all countries to work together toward global modernization, declaring that “China can only do well when the world is doing well. When China does well, the world will get even better.”

Since its establishment in 2013, the Belt and Road Initiative has built roads, railways and ports in Asia, Europe and Africa, with the value of construction contracts between China and partner countries reaching $2 trillion, according to the State Council Information Office.

For financing Belt and Road projects, policy lenders China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China will each set up a 350 billion yuan ($48 billion) financing window, while an additional 80 billion yuan will be added to the state-backed Silk Road Fund, Xi said Wednesday.

He said this year’s forum would feature discussions on global artificial intelligence governance to promote “sound, orderly and secure AI development.”

The president also highlighted green infrastructure, energy and transportation as areas for deepening cooperation, adding that communication channels for the solar industry and a network of experts on low-carbon development will be established. He said China will also increase the number of joint laboratories focusing on science and technology development to 100 in the next five years.

As of June, China signed more than 200 cooperation agreements under the Belt and Road Initiative with 150 countries and 30 international organizations.

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