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Italy Quits China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Angers Beijing

Italy Quits China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Angers Beijing

Italian Defense Minister Crosetto: “We exported a load of oranges to China, they tripled exports to Italy in three years.”

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has angered China’s Communist leadership as her government withdraws from President Xi Jinping’s trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Four years after joining the Chinese global infrastructure initiative, Italy is preparing to get out of the deal, the country’s Defense Minister Guido Crosetto announced in a recent interview.

The BRI brought no tangible trade benefits for Italy. The Chinese instead flooded the Italian market with their cheap goods, further raising the already high bilateral trade deficit. “We exported a load of oranges to China, they tripled exports to Italy in three years,” the defense minister said.

By pulling out of the project, Meloni is fulfilling her election promise. She called Italy’s entry into the Chinese infrastructure project “a big mistake.”

The DC-based journal Foreign Policy reported Friday:

China’s ambitions in Europe suffered a major setback this week when Italy signaled plans to leave Beijing’s flagship foreign-policy program, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), underscoring a broader shift in Europe as governments grow increasingly wary of their economic dependence on Beijing.

While Beijing has long sought to expand its economic footprint in Europe, including by funneling money into BRI infrastructure projects, the biggest European economies largely refused to sign onto the initiative. That changed in 2019 when Italy diverged from its peers and became the BRI’s first and only G-7 member, a move that enraged Washington and represented a major political victory for China.

By exiting the BRI, Rome will be dealing an embarrassing blow to Beijing on the initiative’s 10th anniversary. Italy’s planned withdrawal also reflects a broader reckoning overtaking Europe as many leaders turn away from the deep economic integration that has for years defined the Europe-China relationship. For years, Europe has lagged behind Washington’s confrontational approach to China, especially when it comes to economic integration—or decoupling. But that appears to be changing. (…)

A cornerstone of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s foreign-policy strategy, the BRI has allowed China to export its industrial overcapacity while expanding its geopolitical influence, although the program now appears to be drawing down. In the decade since its inception, two-thirds of European Union members, mostly in the east, have joined the initiative to harness Chinese investment and jump-start growth—resulting in a slew of railway, port, and highway projects. Many of these countries, like Italy, were grappling with slumping economies and touted the potential economic gains that could come from BRI investment.

Four years later, those bets have not paid off. When Italy signed onto the initiative, Chinese firms agreed to pour $2.8 billion into infrastructure projects, including for Italian ports—fueling lawmakers’ hopes of sweeping returns. But the economic boom never came.

The move will ‘hurt’ Italy, China warns

Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative envisions a vast network of ports, railways, roads, and pipelines connecting China to the Eurasian landmass. The unfettered access to Italian ports was key to the Chinese maritime designs of securing a foothold in Europe. Italy quitting the project is seen as big blow to these plans.

“For China, losing the belt and road’s richest Western member and a key node on the original Silk Road will be a symbolic blow,” the newspaper South China Morning Post admitted Saturday.

Beijing is angered by Rome’s defiant pullout. Germany state-run DW TV reported:

China on Friday blamed “some forces” within the Italian government who it said had “politicized” the Asian country’s huge Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), of which Italy is a member.

In a statement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it believed the recent criticism by Rome of its links to the BRI was an attempt to “disrupt cooperation and create division.”

It warned that the “malicious hype” created by Italy’s far-right government “goes against the trend of history and will hurt others without benefiting oneself.”

Losing access to Italian ports is a setback, but China isn’t giving up on its grand designs anytime soon. Apart from the maritime routes, Beijing is also looking to enter Europe from the east. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia have also signed up for BRI-related deals. The initiative includes a “10,800-kilometer-long rail link [running] through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany,” Chinese news agency Xinhua reports.

Besides Italy, 70 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa have signed up on the Chinese project. Italy is one of the few industrialized Western nations to join the BRI. Most of these countries are poor third-world nations with dysfunctional economies and corrupt governance.

Several of them have defaulted on Chinese loans handed out under the framework of the project. “About $78.5bn of loans from Chinese institutions to roads, railways, ports, airports and other infrastructure around the world were renegotiated or written off between 2020 and the end of March this year,” the UK’s Financial Times reported April 2023.


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Internal China discussion, “what is the next Covid we can release in Italy?
It worked great on the Trump USA., with lot’s of cool unintended consequences worldwide and here in China.”

You gotta love Meloni, a leader who possesses more balls than the rest of the utterly feckless, cowed and emasculated western leadership in the U.S. and Europe, combined.

    Morning Sunshine in reply to guyjones. | August 7, 2023 at 8:30 am

    I love Italy. I have since I unintentionally signed up for a study abroad there (long story) 25 years ago. It is a place near to my heart. I am so happy to see Italians pushing back on the “must erase Europe” trend.

      It’s a fantastic country. Italian culture, food and art can’t be beat. And, now, Italy has leadership to match.

        Morning Sunshine in reply to guyjones. | August 7, 2023 at 10:53 am

        I had a professor of Florence History (basically a deep-dive semester-long tour) who said on the first day “I am supposed to give you a history of the universe in 12 hours. It is impossible!”
        It always cracked me up – not only is (in his view) Florence the center of Italian history, it is the center of the universe entire.

        And, in a lot of ways, he was NOT wrong.

    CDR D in reply to guyjones. | August 7, 2023 at 11:03 am

    Molto bene!

    Neo in reply to guyjones. | August 7, 2023 at 1:08 pm

    They say that thanks to the flights from Milan to China, setup by the Belt and Road Initiative, that COVID did come to Italy

      gonzotx in reply to Neo. | August 7, 2023 at 2:08 pm

      It came quick and hard,
      Italy has an older population, unfortunately they have a HIGE Chinese population in the north

      It decimated the older Italians

    cptsully in reply to guyjones. | August 8, 2023 at 9:01 am

    This is the attitude all western countries need to take with the ChiComs. Throw out their Chinese “investors” “students”, and anything else that allows their communist infiltration. Unfortunately for America, our senile president and the majority of our politicians are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the CCCP.

Good for Italy. More countries need to isolate China and tell them to pound sand.

The EU should ban this CCP con job.

I wonder if Orban will follow suit. One would hope so.

Everything angers China, so what. The way for China into Europe is contained in the article, through the ‘Stans’ of the former USSR. As Moscow diminishes and the Russian Federation along with it, China can bide its time across that region as well as northward across the Russian far east. They won’t have to float a single ship to do it. The far regions of the RF have long grudges with Moscow..

German state-run DW TV reported: Italy’s far-right government ……

    Whitewall in reply to Tiki. | August 7, 2023 at 9:06 am

    “far right’ is Euro speak for anything not approved of by the left, media etc. When far right follows through on their promises and they prove to be right, then the left goes into spasms so badly that nothing will do except defeating said ‘far right’ government as soon as possible by any means necessary..

      CDR D in reply to Whitewall. | August 7, 2023 at 11:07 am

      It is US media speak as well. “Far right” is a media pejorative for anti-“far left”.

      guyjones in reply to Whitewall. | August 7, 2023 at 12:06 pm

      Yes, “far-right” is always invoked in a pejorative and vilifying sense, but, notice how these same water-carrying, Leftist/Dumb-o-crat media lapdogs/trained seals/shills will never, ever invoke the far more accurate moniker of “far-left” to characterize contemporary Leftists and Dumb-o-crats in Europe and the U.S.

      Tiki in reply to Whitewall. | August 7, 2023 at 5:18 pm

      I really don’t need a explainer. Lol

      Kepha H in reply to Whitewall. | August 7, 2023 at 6:06 pm

      In America, “fascist” includes people who would like to decentralize education and allow a number of alternative schools and methods.

      I’ve decided I also love Italy–even if I’ve only been there as a tourist.

Let’s not forget China’s most famous ‘export’ to Italy: COVID19

Fat_Freddys_Cat | August 7, 2023 at 10:40 am

It will be interesting to see what the U.S. government and their media toadies have to say about this.

BRI has always been about China getting the camel’s nose inside the tent.