Italy Withdraws From China’s Belt And Road Initiative

The prime minister of Rome, Giorgia Meloni, has formally notified Beijing of Italy’s exit from the Communist Party’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Although the letter was reportedly sent to Beijing a few days ago, it only became public following a report by the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday.

Despite Rome’s efforts to renegotiate its agreement before the year-end renewal deadline, Prime Minister Meloni’s proposals were ultimately turned down by the Communist government. The rejection prompted Meloni’s decision to end its partnership on the project with China.

International observers have dubbed the BRI as “debt-trap diplomacy,” wherein the Chinese Communist Party utilizes predatory loans for infrastructure projects in developing nations across Asia, Africa, South America and Eastern Europe to assert political influence.

The BRI frequently results in China taking control of significant land or infrastructure projects if countries struggle to repay their debts to Beijing, and the purported economic advantages are undermined by the fact that China often brings in Chinese workers and materials for BRI jobs.

In 2019, Italy, led by former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, became the inaugural G7 member to align with the Belt and Road initiative. The pledge included expectations of heightened economic growth and Chinese investments in Italy. Nonetheless, these assurances remained largely unmet, except for investments in Italian ports strategically used as a European base for China’s fleet of merchant ships.

On the flip side, joining the Belt and Road Initiative brought significant disadvantages for Italy, as communist officials utilized the partnership to influence Italian media and promote pro-Beijing narratives.

While Italy didn’t experience substantial advantages from joining the BRI, there could be repercussions for exiting it. China might seek to penalize Rome, potentially by restricting access to the Chinese market for products made in Italy. This strategy aims to discourage other nations from following suit and leaving the communist scheme.

In an effort to decrease the risk of economic retaliation, Meloni’s government has aimed to improve relations with the CCP by reaffirming the ties between Italy and China.

Although Italy was the sole G7 participant to join the BRI, it wasn’t the only European Union member state to do so. Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia also became part of the project.