Italy’s intention to withdraw from China’s Belt and Road Initiative has drawn criticism from the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The ministry expressed its dissatisfaction with the Italian government’s actions, stating that it goes against the trend of history and will only harm others without benefiting Italy.
The criticism from China follows remarks made by Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto, who denounced Italy’s decision to join the Belt and Road Initiative in 2019. He referred to it as an “improvised and atrocious act” in an interview with Corriere della Sera. Crosetto openly discussed the possibility of Italy abandoning the 29 deals it signed with Beijing, while ensuring that it would not damage the relationship between the two countries. He acknowledged that China is both a competitor and a partner to Italy.
Crosetto also highlighted Italy’s unique status as the only European country and only G7 nation to join the Belt and Road Initiative. He expressed unease regarding the limited increase in Italy’s exports to China compared to the significant increase in Chinese imports. This has raised questions about the benefits of Italy’s participation in the initiative.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni also raised concerns about Italy’s involvement in the Belt and Road Initiative. She described it as a paradox that Italy, despite not having the highest trade volume with China among G7 countries, is the only member of the alliance to have joined the initiative. Meloni announced that a decision on whether to withdraw from the project would be made before December. She emphasized the need for discussions with both the Chinese government and the Italian parliament before taking any irreversible actions.
Meloni’s recent visit to Washington also played a role in Italy’s reconsideration of its participation in the Chinese initiative. She mentioned discussing Italy’s involvement with US President Joe Biden but maintained that the US does not dictate Italian policy on China.
The United States has been pressuring its allies to disengage from economic deals and partnerships with China. The G7’s proposed alternative to the Belt and Road Initiative, the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment, was launched last year but lacks the international profile and scale of its Chinese counterpart.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative aims to revitalize ancient trade routes and strengthen connections between China and its global partners, including Europe, Africa, and South America. The initiative has resulted in over 3,000 infrastructure projects in more than 150 countries, with investments totaling around €0.91 trillion ($1 trillion). According to the World Bank, it is expected to contribute to lifting nearly 40 million people out of poverty.
Italy’s potential withdrawal from the Belt and Road Initiative raises questions about the future of the project and the implications for Italy-China relations. It also highlights the complexities and challenges faced by countries trying to balance their relationships with China and other global powers.