On October 17th officials from at least 90 countries are expected to arrive in Beijing for a two-day diplomatic festival. The occasion is a summit organised by Xi Jinping, China’s president, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), his most ambitious foreign-policy programme. It involves China financing billions of dollars of investment in roads, railways and other infrastructure across Eurasia and Africa. China claims the BRI has created 420,000 jobs and lifted 40m people out of poverty. But many in the West think its real purpose is to construct a Chinese-led world order in which unsavoury regimes can thrive. The guest list for this week’s summit resembles a gallery of rogues. Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, will play a starring role. Various other strongmen have confirmed their attendance. Even the Taliban are sending a delegation. Does China’s BRI bankroll international development or cement autocracy?
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