Italy became the first G7 nation to
endorse China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) otherwise known as the
Silk Road Project, which aims to launch a network of infrastructure projects
connecting Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Prime Minister Giuseppe
Conte and China’s President, Xi Jinping, have signed a non-binding memorandum
of understanding (MoU) boosting the ties between two nations. Xi was able to ensure Italy’s contribution to
his $1 Trillion (£760 Billion) BRI enterprise.
“It’s now time for a more effective
relationship between Italy and China,” Conte said.
The endorsement angered Washington
and alarmed EU allies who see the Silk Road project as China’s strategic move
to embolden its political and strategic clout.
The United States fears that it is
designed to strengthen China’s military influence and could be utilized to
spread technologies capable of spying on Western interests.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte
warned Italy against being too naïve when dealing with China:
“You have to take into account the
possibility that China, through the policies, is also pursuing some of its
French President Emmanuel Macron said
on Friday that relations with Beijing must not be based primarily on trade and
other EU leaders also cautioned Italy this week against rushing into the arms
Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi
Di Maio played down such concerns, telling reporters that Rome remains fully
committed to its Western partners. However, di Maio stressed that Italy needs
to be prioritized first when it comes to commercial ties:
“This is a very important day for us,
a day when Made-in-Italy has won, Italy has won and Italian companies have
During Xi’s visit, Italian companies
successfully inked deals with Chinese counterparts worth an initial 2.5 billion
euros ($2.8 billion). Di Maio said these contracts had a potential, future
value of 20 billion euros.
Italy’s president, Sergio Mattarella,
also expressed support to the deal, saying that China and Italy were “ideal
travel companions” as he raised a toast with Xi during a gala dinner at the
presidential palace on Friday night.