During tomorrow's Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Italy (March 21), the eurozone's third largest economy is expected to formally support the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China's Global Pressure to Expand Its Political and Economic Impact Abroad
The move that alerts European allies and the United States bears the stamp of a relative newcomer to Italian politics: Michele Geraci.
Xi's visit to Italy, followed by stays in Monaco and France (Paywall)), comes after discussions in Europe, where China has been called a "systemic rival", and in the midst of US efforts, Chinese companies to participate in the Introduction of 5G Telecom by allies to ban network security concerns.
Italy would do so to be the first BRI member of the G7, a group of democratically governed advanced economies that has long been shaping global politics. The other members include France, Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and Japan. Acknowledgment for BRI, a reinvention of the Silk Road's historical trade routes, launched by China in 2013, may be a sign that a country is breaking with traditional allies and colliding with China over politically-charged issues. The initiative involves more than 60 countries.
The US publicly criticized the Italian move.
Behind Italy's ambitions to deepen relations with China, Geraci is one of the world's growing concerns over China's investment, the country's most passionate admirers in the Italian government. Geraci, now Secretary of State for Economic Development of Italy, lived in China for more than a decade, where he taught finance. He agreed with the country's policies in all areas, from China's rigorous controls (link in Italian), to internal migration, to its security apparatus investment strategy on the African continent.
Geraci has presented the agreement to be signed during Xi's visit to both boost Italian exports and "align China with international standards," according to a CNBC interview uploaded by Geraci on YouTube. He said that the agreement would give the Italian companies "the choice but no obligation" to work on overseas projects and downplay concerns from other European countries and from his own government.
The decision was accompanied by a relative lack of clarity about what exactly that meant for the country and prompted the Italian press to complain about further information about the deal. The Italian news sites have leaked two different (Italian-language) versions of the document, both of which are rather vague.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who will attend the Belt and Road Summit in Beijing next month, has done so. The agreement (link in Italian) will give Italian companies a chance to expand into China and will not include telecommunications technology. While the Ministry of Economy also insists that telecommunications is not part of the agreement, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Guglielmo Picchi, has expressed doubts that Italy has signed the initiative, saying that the document also covers "Telecommunications, Interoperability and Infrastructures ". "
The controversial communications are characteristic of the fragmented Italian government, which consists of a coalition between the populist Five Star Movement and the far-right, anti-European Union League.