China vows billions of development dollars, debt forgiveness

China’s president on Saturday pledged billions in aid and said Beijing will forgive debts due this year in an effort to help the world’s poorest nations, as world leaders begin to seek the trillions of dollars needed to help achieve sweeping new development goals.

President Xi Jinping spoke at a global summit that on Friday launched the non-binding goals for the next 15 years.

Xi and others spoke as the U.N. gathering began to shift focus from development to the high-powered General Assembly meeting that begins Monday with speeches by Xi, President Barack Obama, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the first morning alone.

As world leaders met quietly behind the scenes, others lined up to express support for the new development push that aimed to eliminate both poverty and hunger over the next 15 years. They replace a soon-to-expire set of development goals whose limited success was largely due to China’s surge out of poverty over the past decade and a half.

China’s president vowed to help other countries make the same transformation. Xi said China will commit an initial $2 billion to establish an assistance fund to meet the post-2015 goals in areas such as education, health care and economic development. He said China would seek to increase the fund to $12 billion by 2030.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, attends the Sustainable Development Summit 2015, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015 at United Nations headquarters.  (AP...

And Xi said China would write off intergovernmental interest-free loans owed to China by the least-developed, small island nations and most heavily debt-burdened countries due this year.  He said China “will continue to increase investment in the least developed countries,” and support global institutions, including the Beijing-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank that is due to launch by the end of the year and is seen as a Chinese alternative to the more Western-oriented financial institutions of the World Bank.

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