That injects a potential note of conflict into the official celebration of President Xi Jinping's signature foreign initiative, which has stirred anxiety in Washington, Moscow and Tokyo that Beijing is trying to expand its global influence.
The meeting starting Thursday brings together leaders or envoys from three dozen countries including Malaysia, Serbia and Kenya.
A spokesman for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia says debt "is going to be part of the prime minister's focus at the forum."
Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand have canceled or renegotiated railways and other projects they concluded were too expensive.
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