China scotches BRI 'rumours'

Update: 2019-04-26 03:26 GMT

Beijing: China launched on Thursday a staunch defence of its Belt and Road global infrastructure project as it opened a summit with a pledge to ease concerns about debt linked to its signature foreign policy.

President Xi Jinping's pet project is a reboot of the ancient Silk Road to connect Asia to Europe and Africa through massive investments in maritime, road and rail projects. The initiative offers to bring much-needed modern infrastructure to developing countries, but the United States has dubbed it a "vanity project" and critics warn it is a "debt trap" favouring Chinese companies.

Huang Kunming, a member of China's powerful Politburo, said at the opening of the three-day Belt and Road Forum in Beijing that there have been "some misunderstandings and unfounded rumours" about BRI that they hope to clear up.

But in a nod to the concerns over loans, Finance Minister Liu Kun said China would release a framework to "prevent debt risks," according to state-owned China Securities Journal.

The "debt sustainability analysis framework" encourages Chinese financial institutions and BRI countries to voluntarily improve debt management levels, the report said. China must properly address "issues of environmental protection and debt management that the international community pays close attention to," said Zheng Zhijie, governor of the China Development Bank.

The bank has doled out much of loans since 2013, with Zheng saying it had extended $190 billion in financing to 600 projects.

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