China pledges to invest $124bn in projects under Belt and Road scheme

China has pledged to invest billions of dollars in projects under its “One Belt, One Road” strategy, an ambitious plan to rebuild public infrastructure and strengthen China’s trade links to the rest of the globe.

President Xi Jinping pledged $124bn (£96bn) for the scheme, described as the new Silk Road.

“We should build an open platform of cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy,” Xi said in his opening address at a summit of world leaders in Beijing.

“Spanning thousands of miles and years, the ancient silk routes embody the spirit of peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit,” he added.

The Belt and Road plan was unveiled in 2013 as a new way of boosting global development.

Xi pledged 100 billion yuan($14.5bn) to China’s Silk Road Fund, 380 billion yuan in loans from two policy banks (the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China), as well as 60 billion yuan in aid to developing countries international bodies that are part of the Belt and Road project.

Xi said that it is time to encourage “fair, reasonable and transparent global trade and investment rules”.

“China is willing to share its development experience with all countries. We will not interfere in other countries’ internal affairs,” he said. “No matter if they are from Asia and Europe, or Africa or the Americas, they are all co-operative partners in building the Belt and Road.”

Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said that China’s big pledge could “help boost global trade, investment, and financial cooperation.”

“By sharing the benefits of investment and knowledge more broadly, growth will be stronger, more durable and more inclusive,” Lagarde added.

Critics of the scheme say that China could create giant debt loads for countries that make use of the credit lines, while proponents welcome the plan as a boost for companies that want to expand abroad.