Half the World Worries About Italy Getting in Bed With China
By John Follain and Helene Fouquet
March 21, 2019
European allies see a threat to sovereignty, the U.S. is flagging the risks of Beijing’s growing influence, and half of the Italian government is so uncomfortable that their leader, Matteo Salvini, is leaving town for the day.
And all the same, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday in Rome will sign Italy up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a transcontinental infrastructure project that critics say allows Beijing to trade present-day investment for future leverage. Italy’s state lender may also get a green light from Chinese authorities to issue renminbi-denominated bonds, further deepening ties.
The memorandum on Belt and Road will be the centerpiece of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Europe and will make Italy the first Group of Seven nation to sign up. Xi’s stay in the capital will include a gala dinner with President Sergio Mattarella and a meeting with business leaders, according to Italian officials.