BEIJING – Chile’s President Sebastian Piñera is set to visit China for a state visit from April 24-28 and will attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, China’s Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.
Piñera is to meet his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the visit, as well as speaking with Premier Li Keqiang and the chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Li Zhanshu, foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said.
“Chile is an important partner of cooperation between Latin America and Asia-Pacific, and the first country that signed a free trade agreement with China among Latin American countries,” Lu said.
“We believe this visit will further enhance and deepen our political mutual trust, and step up our mutually friendly cooperation to take our comprehensive strategic partnership into new highs,” he added.
Lu said the two sides will exchange views on bilateral relations and matters of common interest, adding that Piñera will also participate in the economic, trade and cultural activities of the Belt and Road Forum.
A total of 37 heads of state or government are expected to attend the forum in Beijing between April 25-27 to discuss China’s ambitious infrastructure project that aims to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks.
The event will also be attended by representatives of up to 150 countries and international organizations, including United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and International Monetary Fund Chairwoman Christine Lagarde, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters on Friday.
Presidents or prime ministers likely to attend will come from Italy, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Chile, Austria, Switzerland, Singapore, Philippines, Kenya, Pakistan, Egypt, Czech Republic, Hungary, Serbia, Mongolia, Vietnam and Thailand.
Many western countries will not be sending their top leaders to attend the meeting. These include the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Australia or Spain.
However, their high-ranking representatives are expected at the event on the new Silk Road initiative that many nations suspect is China’s tool of cultivating its influence and burdening countries with debt. Beijing has always rejected the charges.
Wang said the second forum of the initiative seeks to attract high-quality cooperation and that there will be a conference specifically for the business community on April 25.
Xi will inaugurate the meeting on April 26 with a speech to be followed by a round table with the world leaders.
The first forum was also held in Beijing in May 2017 with the presence of leaders from 28 states and the participation of representatives from 100 countries.
The initiative comprises a Silk Road Economic Belt – a trans-continental passage that links China with Southeast, South and Central Asia, Russia and Europe by land – and a 21st century Maritime Silk Road, a sea route connecting China’s coastal regions with Southeast and South Asia, the South Pacific, the Middle East and Eastern Africa, all the way to Europe.