In a press conference on Tuesday, Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister announced that 28 world leaders would be attending their Belt and Road summit in Beijing from May 14-15.
Given the new proposed ‘Silk Road’, Southeast and Central Asia are unsurprisingly well represented within this 28. The leaders of Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam will all be present, as well as those from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Bloomberg however noted that only one G8 country, Italy, will be sending its most senior official. Whilst this may look like the rest are not as keen on Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy initiative, the summit comes at a time when Germany and France both have elections. The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, will also be on the election path after announcing a call for a snap election. Philip Hammond, UK Chancellor of the Exchequer and May’s right hand man, is confirmed to be in China in her stead.
Business has shown much enthusiasm for the project, which aims to build roads, railways, ports and other infrastructure along the ancient Silk Road’s maritime and overland routes with close to US$100 billion in funding. The complaint is the lack of clarity on implementation. Since 2013, when Xi unveiled the first outlines, the Chinese government has championed the concept, but the reality has made little progress.
The success of the Belt and Road summit will not depend on the credentials of the global audience. If there is clear understanding of how the concept will be delivered, the two-day event has the potential to significantly propel the initiative forward.