Former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown told leading business figures and politicians from Europe and China in London on Monday that President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road strategy had the ability to change the world. He was speaking at the opening session of an annual summit aimed at promoting business ties between China and the EU. At the Sino-European Entrepreneurs Summit 2016, Chinese and European business people are given the opportunity to network and study entry strategies into foreign markets. This year's two-day summit is the third of its kind — previous editions were held in Paris — and top of the agenda is China's Belt and Road strategy as well as several of the economic, social and developmental initiatives outlined in China's 13th Five Year Plan, revealed earlier this year. "The Belt and Road strategy is a major initiative China has taken to deliver its over-all opening-up strategy," Chinese Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming said in his welcome speech. "It will greatly facilitate cross border flow of capital and technological knowledge and it will boost development." Brown said the Belt and Road strategy had the potential, through its Silk Road Economic Belt and Maritime Silk Road and associated funds, to lift those in poverty into the middle class. "The Silk Road initiative recalls a course in history 2000 years ago when Europe was linked to china by a silk road, and now your president has revived this idea in a way that I think has huge potential to change the world," Brown said in his keynote speech. "Together we can achieve what is the dream of mankind, that every single individual can bridge the gap between what they are at what they have it within themselves to become, and this conference and this Silk Road initiative is part of this." The multinational initiative laid out by President Xi in 2013 seeks to meet demand for infrastructure development and increase trade and cultural links between member nations in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North and East Africa and Oceania. Brown, who is co-chairman of the SEES, said the Belt and Road Initiative presents great infrastructure opportunities backed up by financial commitments to make these projects possible. Such financial backing includes China-led investment banks such as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. In addition, the engineering and scientific benefits that China and Europe can share in the infrastructure investment process will also make a big contribution, Brown said. Wu Jianmin, former deputy director of CPPCC Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chairman of SEES, said the Belt and Road initiative is a key signal of China's economic opening up and the building of independence with other economies. "China's modernization cannot be materialized in isolation," Wu said. "Opening up to the outside world will realize huge economic potential, which will last several centuries." In the opening panel session at the summit, Lord Sassoon, chairman of the China-Britain Business Council, and several other panelists highlighted the importance of utilizing the financial and professional services available in the United Kingdom when constructing Belt and Road projects. Wu said it was imperative for entrepreneurs from China attempting to enter foreign countries to connect first with accounting, legal and contracting agencies that act as "intermediaries" into the global market. Lin Yifu, director of the Center for New Structural Economics at Peking University, said the Belt and Road initiative can greatly contribute to Africa's growth and poverty alleviation, by directly benefiting from new infrastructure being built and also by taking over more of the world's light manufacturing industry as this sector moves away from China. In this process of infrastructure construction, many Africn contries will be able to move up the value chain, and move from low income to mid income status, reinforcing the remarks by Brown on alleviating poverty. Lin said although light manufacturing sectors fueled China's growth over the past decades, rising labor costs in China are making these industries move away from China, and many low income countries can benefit by taking over these industries. For example, currently an entry level position for Chinese blue collar workers offers about $600 a month, and this can grow to $1000 a month by 2020, meaning China is to face the same challenge of losing competitiveness as Japan did in the 1960s and the so-called four Asian Tiger countries did in the 1980s. The relocating of light manufacturing to other low wage countries can allow them to enjoy the same growth that the Asian economies were able to achieve. Africa countries today have large and young populations, meaning they have great strength to capture the opportunities, and the Belt and Road initiative will help Africa in this process, Lin said. Monday's second panel concerned investment and the renminbi's role in the international financial system, while parallel panels explored British branding and the creative industries. On Tuesday, the topics of real estate and urban development lead the morning sessions, followed by a discussion on the expansion of Chinese business interests in overseas markets via the government's "Going Out Strategy." A Tuesday afternoon discourse on China's increasingly influential role in the international football market will feature remarks from former FA chairman Lord Triesman and Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis. UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale will deliver the session's keynote speech and field a Q&A late Tuesday afternoon, before a signing ceremony between Shanghai Jinxin Investment Fund and MP&Silva to mark the Chinese group's acquisition of a majority stake in the world's number one football rights agency. A panel on mergers and acquisitions and China's record breaking Q1 2016 in global deals as well as a panel on China's emergence as a global tech superpower will close the day's agenda.