BEIJING - China's huge Belt and Road initiative to build a new Silk Road will respect global rules and be free of "backroom deals", the foreign minister said on Thursday, defending a key policy of President Xi Jinping's.
Unveiled in 2013, the Belt and Road project is aimed at connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East, Europe and Africa.
Xi pledged $124 billion for the plan at a summit last May but it has faced suspicion in Western capitals that it is intended more to assert Chinese influence than Beijing's professed desire to spread prosperity and that it will mostly benefit Chinese companies.
Visiting China in January, French President Emmanuel Macron said Belt and Road could not be "one-way".
Speaking at a news conference on the sidelines of the annual meeting of parliament, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said the Belt and Road was a "sunshine initiative" that was open and for all to benefit from.
"Everything will operate in the sunshine," Wang said. "There is no domination by one party; everyone participates equally. There are no backroom deals; there is openness and transparency. There is no winner-takes-all; only seeking win-win mutual benefit."
Wang pointed to what he said were several already very successful Belt and Road-linked projects, including building power plants in Pakistan and China's operation of Greece's largest port at Piraeus.
"China and France have joined hands to build a nuclear power station in Britain, becoming a model for cooperation in new high-tech projects for the Belt and Road," he said, referring to the Hinkley Point scheme, which British Prime Minister Theresa May initially put on hold when she came to office in 2016.
Wang said China was committed to best international practice.
"Belt and Road is a global public good, and of course respects international rules. It is a global platform for cooperation, and naturally will run according to market rules," he added.
"It won't only benefit China. Even more, it will bring benefit to the world." (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)