Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation begins in Beijing

Xi described the "Belt and Road" initiative as a "project of the century" before pledging an additional 100 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) for China's Silk Road Fund, 380 billion yuan in new lending for participating nations, and 60 billion yuan in coming years to developing countries and worldwide organizations that join the program.

"We should build an open platform of cooperation and uphold and grow an open world economy", Xi added.

"We are of firm belief that connectivity initiatives must be based on universally recognised global norms, good governance, rule of law, openness, transparency and equality".

Xi reiterated his vigorous defense of free trade at the summit in Beijing, in continuation of his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier in January.

Australia is receptive to exploring commercial opportunities China's new Silk Road presents to the country's businesses, but any decisions would remain incumbent on national interest, Australian Trade Minister Steven Ciobo said on Sunday (May 14).

Also China will encourage financial institutions to conduct overseas RMB fund business with an estimated amount of 300 billion yuan (about United States dollars 43.5 billion), Xi said.

The B and Road initiative should be built into a road for peace, as the pursuit of the initiative requires a peaceful and stable environment, Xi told the forum attended by 29 heads of state and government besides representatives of over 100 countries and global organisations.

Some Western diplomats have expressed unease about both the summit and the plan as a whole, seeing it as an attempt to push Chinese influence globally.

China opens on Sunday a summit to promote its massive global trade infrastructure project, highlighting Beijing's ambitions to spearhead a new era of globalisation as Washington shifts toward inward-looking policies.

"What we hope to create is a big family of harmonious co-existence", Xi said, adding pursuit of the initiative will not resort to outdated geopolitical manoeuvring.

"China is willing to share its development experience with all countries".

Xi said Beijing plans to announce dozens of new investment and other agreements during the two-day event.

The US-based organisation said Chinese authorities have "heightened surveillance and repression to prevent potential unrest that could impede" Belt and Road plans in the western Xinjiang region. "Instead we will create a new model of co-operation and mutual benefit", Mr Xi said at the opening of the two-day summit.

Xi said the new Silk Road would be open to all, including Africa and the Americas, which are not situated on the traditional Silk Road.

"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".

Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan echoed Xi's theme that economic development would help to nurture political stability and neutralize support for radical groups.

Leaders from 29 countries and ministerial delegates from many more are attending the forum in Beijing, including India's smaller neighbours - not just Pakistan, but also Sri Lanka and Nepal.