Italy wants to be the first G7 nation to sign a Memorandum of Understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s massive infrastructure and connectivity project. Through the Memorandum, Italy seeks more market access in China for Italian companies and “Made in Italy” products, as well as more Chinese investments in Italy under the Initiative framework. Besides commercial considerations, there are important geo-strategic implications to consider. Italy’s endorsement of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy initiative undermines European Union efforts at finding a common stance vis-à-vis Beijing. It also weakens the position of the United States in its tug-of-war with China over trade and global leadership. Remarkably, it is Italian populists in power in Rome – though there are differences between the two coalition partners – who are willing to defy their mentor in the White House by helping China drive a wedge in the Euro-Atlantic alliance.
1. The Belt and Road and its critics
2. Europe’s connectivity concept
3. Chinese investments in Italy
4. Italy’s place in the Belt and Road Initiative
5. The populists and China
Italian weakness, Chinese strength