China in Italy: Risk Assessment and Preventive Solutions
Italy’s 2019 decision to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with China in support of the Belt and Road Initiative sparked a heated debate at home and abroad. The possibility of Italy upgrading its trade and investment relations with China through the shortcut of a political endorsement of President Xi Jinping’s flagship foreign-policy initiative was framed as either a heaven-sent opportunity or a serious strategic threat. Two years on, most of the concerns pointed out in the debate, especially regarding infrastructures, have proven unsubstantiated (although the economic opportunities for which the Italian Government wished have also failed to materialise). However, cooperation initiatives between Italian and Chinese entities in sectors often overlooked in the mainstream debate, such as media and academic partnerships, do present risks. The creation of an interagency China Information and Coordination Unit would help to prevent – or, at least, to minimise – such risks.
Paper prepared in the framework of the IAI project “When Italy Embraces the BRI”.
1. Contextualising the MoU: Italy’s attempts to enter the court of China
1.1 The state of Italy–China trade and investment relations
1.2 The historical background to the MoU
2. Risk assessment
2.1 Unsubstantiated risks
2.2 Actual risks
3. Policy recommendations