China has scotched claims that developed nations are shunning the country’s third Belt and Road Forum, instead saying the likes of France, Germany and Italy were just not invited.
Chinese state media on Saturday did though admit most of the leaders attending this year will be from developing nations, as debate in the West over economic dependence on China casts a shadow over longer-term trade and investment relations with Beijing.
Italy, the sole Group of Seven nation in Belt and Road, said the decision by a previous government to join had been “atrocious”.
Critics see the ambitious Belt and Road initiative – billed as recreating the ancient Silk Road to boost global trade infrastructure – as a tool for President Xi Jinping’s China to spread its geopolitical and economic influence.
The Wall Street Journal reported in July that the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and some other European countries did not plan to attend this year’s Belt and Road Forum, to be held in the autumn, adding that the lacklustre response suggested a more challenging global landscape for Xi’s diplomatic ambitions.
The state-run Global Times disputed that claim on Saturday, citing a source it did not name. China has not invited the leaders of some developed nations mentioned in Western media reports, so the conclusion that they were “avoiding participation” does not hold, the nationalistic tabloid said.
Beijing remains open to their attendance if they wish to join the summit, it said.
More than 150 countries, including Russia, have signed up to participate in Belt and Road in the decade since Xi unveiled it, most of them in Africa.
Russian President Vladimir Putin intends to visit China in October, coinciding with the Belt and Road Forum, Russian state news agency TASS reported.
- Reuters with additional editing by Sean O’Meara