In an about-face, the United States has confirmed that it will send representatives to the Belt and Road Summit this weekend, preventing an embarrassing absence of major Western nations at the high-profile meeting President Xi Jinping will host on his flagship Obor initiative.
“The United States has realized the importance of the Belt & Road Initiative and will send its delegates to attend the summit,” said the deputy Finance Minister Zhu Guangyao in a regular press conference of the State Council on Thursday, reported by CCTV.
“This is a significant and concrete outcome, which reflects that the initiative is an open and inclusive one”, Zhu added, “It is brought up by China, but it will benefit the whole world.”
The idea is to globalize the One Belt, One Road (Obor) initiative instead of limiting its projects to countries along the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” and the “Maritime Silk Road.”
The initiative, which has had many names since it was launched in 2013, has also been promoted through a series of propaganda videos to build up momentum for the May 14-15 summit.
In a serial called Belt and Road Bedtime Stories released by China Daily four days ago, an American dad tells his daughter that he’s going to attend a forum in Beijing on Obor.
The father then offers an interpretation of the initiative. “It’s China’s idea, but it belongs to the world,” said the American middle-class parent in the video.
The global expansion push in the Obor propaganda videos may give people a hint of what summit would be about.
The forum is an opportunity for both Xi to project himself as a global leader and promote his initiative as being more than just a grand plan for China – Obor will increase globalization to include the entire world.
Earlier on April 18, top leaders and representatives of 28 countries had confirmed they would attend the summit, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte, Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Malaysia’s Najib Razak, Indonesia’s Joko Widodo, Vietnam’s Tran Dai Quang and Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, said the Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Though heads of state from countries in Europe including Hungary, Italy, the Czech Republic, Switzerland and Spain would also attend, there is a notable absence of top leaders from major Western countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada.