China to hold third Belt and Road forum next week
China will hold its third Belt and Road forum in its capital next week, Beijing said Wednesday, confirming the details of an event that several foreign leaders are expected to attend -- including Vladimir Putin.
Representatives from over 130 countries are set to take part in the event celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Beijing's vast infrastructure initiative.
"Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony of the forum and deliver a keynote speech," foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.
He will also "hold a welcome banquet for foreign leaders and heads of international organisations attending the forum", she added.
Russian President Putin has said he will attend the event, in what will be his first visit to China since his war in Ukraine threw him into international isolation.
China and Russia describe each other as strategic allies, frequently touting their "no limits" partnership and economic and military cooperation.
They came even closer following the invasion of Ukraine, with the Kremlin seeking to deepen ties with Beijing after finding itself increasingly ostracised by the West.
China has refused to condemn the war, and has tried to position itself as a neutral party, while at the same time offering Moscow a vital diplomatic and financial lifeline.
Moscow's foreign ministry said Tuesday that top diplomat Sergei Lavrov would also attend next week's Belt and Road forum and hold talks with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.
"We welcome countries and partners actively participating in the Belt and Road Initiative to come to Beijing to discuss cooperation plans and seek common development," another foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said last month.
Next week's forum will focus on the theme of "high-quality joint construction" of the Belt and Road, as well as "joint development and prosperity", the foreign ministry said.
Beijing said in a white paper on Tuesday that the BRI has generated over two trillion dollars in contracts around the world -- equivalent in size to some of the world's biggest economies.
It hailed the BRI on Tuesday as having "delivered real gains to participating countries".
It also said the balance of loans for BRI projects from Eximbank -- a key BRI creditor -- now totalled 2.2 trillion yuan ($307.4 billion).
Critics have long accused China of luring lower-income countries into debt traps by offering huge, unaffordable loans.
And some of its partners are increasingly wary about the cost involved.
Italy, the only one of the group of leading developed democracies to sign up to the investment scheme, said last month it was considering opting out of the deal.