China's Belt and Road Forum has just kicked off in Beijing with 37 international government and state leaders. Analysts said Chinese President Xi Jinping is heading to the second annual forum with support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
According to Caixin Global, Xi met with IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde ahead of the forum wherein the latter expressed willingness to cooperate with Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Xi said he appreciates Lagarde's eagerness to work with the project.
The positive atmosphere of Xi's meeting with Lagarde is expected to extend as the Chinese leader heads to this year's Belt and Road Forum wherein he will promote his government's goals and present benefits for partners under the BRI.
While some experts said Beijing may be hit with critical questions that could trace loopholes on the BRI, other economists said China could counter criticism through highlighting the massive infrastructure project's successful schemes over the past years.
Furthermore, it is expected that Chinese officials and partnering countries will rally behind Xi as he addresses potential questions regarding the BRI that critics may raise during the three-day forum.
Turkey and India have refused to attend the meeting but Beijing will receive a whole host of international leaders including Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will also be part of the forum. U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed they will attend.
From the ASEAN bloc, all 10 heads of state will be attending the meeting. Multiple local outlets confirmed that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte touched down in China to show support for the summit.
Amid continued criticism from the United States and other countries who are not keen on supporting the Belt and Road Initiative, China secured over 170 deals with 150 countries. For the past five years, the agreements accounted for over $90 billion in investments.
Among the latest developments is the Malaysia deal that was seemingly terminated in 2017. With the stalled $10.7 billion railway project deal set to push through this time, analysts said it is a sign that Beijing is actually willing to make amends to its Belt and Road terms for the benefit of both sides.
It was also reported that Peru is set to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) as the country prepares to join the BRI movement. The Philippines is also expected to sign a total of five deals with the Chinese government during the forum.
The 2019 Belt and Road Forum will run from April 25-27.