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Chinese Investments in Italy: Changing the Game?


Chinese investments in Europe have surged in recent years, becoming both a source of hope and growing concern across the continent. Foreign direct investment (FDI) in the European Union traced back to mainland China hit a record EUR 35 billion in 2016, compared with only EUR 1.6 billion in 2010, according to data gathered by the Rhodium Group. In a historic shift, the flow of Chinese direct investment into Europe has surpassed the declining flows of annual European direct investments into China. As China continues to grow, develop, and integrate into the global economy, its overseas investments expand in quantity and quality, reflecting both the growing sophistication of the Chinese economy and broader Chinese commercial and policy goals. Going beyond FDI, Chinese investment is creating new realities for Europe-China relations.
This report by the European Think-tank Network on China (ETNC) brings together original analysis from 19 European countries to better understand these trends and their consequences for policy making and Europe-China relations, including at the bilateral, subregional and EU levels. As in all ETNC reports, it seeks to do so using a country-level approach. Through these case studies, including an introductory explanation and analysis of EU-wide data, the report aims to identify and contextualize the motives for Chinese investment in Europe and the vehicles used. However, the originality of the report also lies in the analysis of national-level debates on China, Chinese investment, and openness to foreign investment more generally. This is not just a story about FDI strictly defined, but about the (geo)political implications that emanate from deeper economic interaction with China. Ultimately, Europe is far from speaking with a single voice on these matters, and identifying where the divergences and convergences lie will be crucial in formulating solid and complementary policy positions at the EU and national level moving forward.
This report is the third in an on-going effort to dissect and reassemble Europe–China relations from a European country-level perspective. The first roundtable discussions on the report were graciously hosted by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA) in Helsinki in May 2017, and its conclusions further refined in discussions organized at the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) in Rome in October 2017. The report has been coordinated by Ifri with the active participation of all ETNC institutions and an equal sharing of publication costs between Ifri, Elcano and MERICS.

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