Xi calls for 'new regional order'

Xi calls for 'new regional order'

Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Boao in Hainan province on Saturday. (EPA Photo)
Chinese President Xi Jinping addresses the opening ceremony of the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Boao in Hainan province on Saturday. (EPA Photo)

BOAO, CHINA — Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the world's nations on Saturday to support Beijing's ideas for a new development bank and "Silk Road" strategy to serve Asia.

The development bank and plans to improve overland and maritime trade and transport routes were focal points of the annual Boao Forum for Asia on the southern island of Hainan.

"Facing the fast-changing regional and international landscapes, we must see the whole picture, follow the trends of our times and build a new regional order that is more favourable to Asia and the world," Xi told the delegates

China, he said, would promote "coordinated development between the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and multilateral financial institutions like the Asian Development Bank and World Bank".

Xi also announced Chinese investment abroad will exceed $500 billion and China would import $10 trillion worth of goods over the next five years.

"Being a big country means shouldering more responsibility for world peace and development," he said.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates attends the opening ceremony of the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Boao in Hainan province on Saturday. (EPA Photo)

Xi said a roadmap for China's proposed strategy had been developed with the aim of improving trade and transport links in Asia.

By speeding up connectivity-building "we can turn the seas of Asia into seas of peace and cooperation between Asian countries", Xi said.

The "New Silk Road Economic Belt" plan aims to improve the infrastructure linking China to Europe through Central Asia and the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" plan aims to strengthen maritime cooperation.

"The maritime silk road ... focuses on South and Southeast Asian counties as well as building connections with some African and European countries," State Councillor Yang Jiechi told forum delegates.

China has already built joint economic zones and ports in partnership with countries including Vietnam, Laos, Kazakhstan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Greece and Sri Lanka, Yang said, adding that other pilot projects are currently being explored.

"Let me reiterate the Maritime Silk Road will not include issues of controversy," Yang said.

"The 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is not an instrument for geopolitical advantages, it is for the public good."

Analysts say this year's meeting is especially important to China as its leadership seeks to promote the two initiatives and increase its regional influence.

Some critics have expressed concern that China is trying to undermine existing financial institutions and would use the "Silk Road" model to strengthen its position in maritime territorial disputes.

The forum continued on Saturday as Russia announced its interest in joining the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott will announce on Sunday that Canberra also plans to join the bank, Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said at the forum on Saturday evening.

The bank, due to be established later this year, is seen by some as a potential rival to the US-dominated International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and the Japanese-dominated Asian Development Bank.

"There's been a lot of noise about transparency and governance of the AIIB but since it's just starting the criticisms may be premature," former Pakistani prime minister Shuakat Aziz said at a forum discussion on Saturday.

Li Ruogu, former chairman and president of the Export-Import Bank of China, said AIIB founders would work together to develop better governance.

"I avoid using the words 'best practice' or 'best governance'," said Li. "If there is already a best, then there is no room for progress ... we can learn from current practice but there is always some room to improve."

China has hosted the annual conference in Hainan's Boao resort area since 2002. Its founders hope it can evolve into an Asian version of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Leaders of Austria, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Armenia, Uganda and Zambia as well as the governor-general of Australia were among several hundred delegates attending the event.

Delegates gather for the opening of the Boao Forum on Hainan island in southern China on Saturday.(AP Photo)

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