Chinese President Xi Jinping has expressed confidence in the future of his One Belt, One Road initiative, a plan that could increase Beijing’s global influence on trade and geopolitics.
At the end of a two-day summit in Beijing on the project, Xi said the One Belt, One Road plan could lead to "peace and prosperity" if all involved make joint efforts.
The Chinese leader said the summit reached a broad consensus and achieved positive outcomes, insisting that the initiative would work to ensure an open world economy, rebalance globalization, and work toward trade liberalization.
However, he cautioned that the undertaking still had a long way to go.
Addressing officials from 30 countries in Asia, Europe, and Africa earlier on May 15, Xi appealed to foreign governments to pursue "greater openness and cooperation" and "reject protectionism" in seeking global economic growth.
"In a world of growth, interdependence, and challenges, no country can tackle the challenges or solve the world's problems on its own," said Xi, who was seated next to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On May 15, Xi pledged an additional $124 billion for China's trade initiative, which seeks to connect the country with Africa, Asia, and Europe through a network of ports, railways, roads, and industrial parks.
Beijing is promoting itself as a champion of free trade at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump has been questioning trade deals as he pursues an "America First" foreign policy.
In one of his first actions after taking office in January, Trump signed an order to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major trade pact that was negotiated under President Barack Obama but never ratified by the U.S. Congress.
Russia has reacted cautiously to the One Belt, One Road initiative, which analysts say has the potential to increase Beijing's influence in regions such as Central Asia at the expense of Moscow.
But Putin voiced support for the plan on May 15 and said Russia intends to be heavily involved.
"Everything that is being proposed is part of the trend of modern development and is very much needed and in demand to a high degree," Putin said at the forum.
"This is precisely why Russia not only supports One Belt, One Road, but will actively participate in its implementation together with our Chinese partners and, of course, with other countries that are interested."
Putin also said that the One Belt, One Road project provides “hope for some stability” amid economic uncertainty.
He said that what he called the "internal political struggle” in the United States, Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, and other issues were causing jitters in the world economy.
Other leaders of former Soviet republics who attended the summit were Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyaev, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev, and Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic were also among those in attendance.
Few Western leaders were there, although Britain, France, and Germany were represented by top finance officials. The United States sent a senior White House adviser.
With reporting by AP, Reuters, AFP, TASS, and RIA