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China offers billions for new Silk Road initiative

President Xi Jinping has offered tens of billions of pounds for projects that are part of his signature foreign policy initiative linking China to much of Asia, Europe and Africa.

Mr Xi made the announcement in his opening address to a two-day "Belt and Road" conference in Beijing that brought together leaders from 29 countries.

The gathering is the latest high-profile appearance for Mr Xi that seeks to cast him as a global leader and chief advocate for free trade.

"We should build an open platform of co-operation and uphold and grow an open world economy," he said.

Despite China's public defence of free trade, Beijing faces mounting complaints that the government is hampering or reducing market access to foreign companies.

Mr Xi said China would contribute 100 billion yuan (£11.2 billion) to the Silk Road Fund, which was set up in 2014 to finance infrastructure projects.

It will also provide aid worth 60 billion yuan (£6.7 billion) to developing countries and international organisations taking part in the initiative to revive the ancient trade route.

Two Chinese banks will also set up lending schemes valued at 380 billion yuan (£42.6 billion) to support the initiative, Mr Xi said.

Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey also spoke at the opening ceremony.

Washington is being represented by a junior delegation led by Matt Pottinger, special assistant to the president and senior director for East Asia at the National Security Council.

AP

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