China is struggling to ease worries about President Xi Jinping's signature plan to build a new Silk Road as it readies for a major summit in late April, especially among Western nations wary about debt, transparency and Chinese influence.

While China gained a major victory by convincing Italy to become the first Group of Seven nation to formally sign on to the plan last month during Xi's visit to Rome, others in the West have been less keen to jump onboard, though many have kept an open mind.

The "Belt and Road" initiative, as it is formally called, is aimed at building a vast network of infrastructure connecting China to Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe and beyond, much like the ancient Silk Road.