NPR

For China's 'New Silk Road,' Ambitious Goals And More Than A Few Challenges

The multibillion-dollar "plan of the century" aims to create a network of trade routes, rail lines, ports and highways, linking countries on four continents. Nearly 70 countries have signed on.
Chinese President Xi Jinping delivers his speech during the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on May 14. Xi offered tens of billions of dollars for projects that are part of his signature foreign policy initiative linking China to much of Asia, Europe and Africa. / Alexander Zemlianichenko / Shutterstock.com

Over the weekend, China pledged tens of billions of dollars in infrastructure financing and development aid, and elicited support from scores of countries to promote economic integration and free global trade through the creation of what Beijing is calling a "new Silk Road."

Twenty-nine heads of state and representatives of more than 130 countries attended the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. At its conclusion, leaders signed a communiqué espousing a "shared commitment to building an open economy, ensuring free and inclusive trade [and] opposing all forms of protectionism."

The plan would, in theory, create a network of trade routes, rail lines, ports and highways, linking countries on four continents. China is

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