Only one leader of a big Western country is attending China's most important diplomatic event of the year, a summit next month on President Xi Jinping's New Silk Road strategy, as China's foreign minister denied it had been snubbed, Reuters reported.
Xi has championed the "One Belt, One Road" or OBOR initiative to build a new Silk Road linking Asia, Africa and Europe, a landmark program to invest billions of dollars in infrastructure projects including railways, ports and power grids.
Reuters reported that China has dedicated $40 billion USD to a Silk Road Fund and the idea was the driving force behind the establishment of the $50 billion China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
According to Reuters, diplomatic sources in Beijing said China had hoped for at least some senior Western leaders to attend the summit, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, but a list of attendees announced by Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday included only one leader from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.
Wang confirmed the presence of the presidents of Russia and the Philippines as among 28 leaders coming, along with the Spanish, Greek, Hungarian, Serb and Polish prime ministers and Swiss and Czech presidents, Reuters stated.
"This is a positive, cooperative agreement, and we don't want to politicize it," Wang told reporters when asked if China was upset at the absence of most major Western leaders.
"This is an economic cooperation forum, an international cooperation platform that everyone is paying attention to, supports and hopes to participate in," he said, adding representatives of 110 countries would come.
British finance minister Philip Hammond will come as May's representative, while Germany and France are having elections at the time and will send high-level representatives, Wang said.