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The Exit: Italy's Break from China's Belt and Road Initiative

Thursday, December 7, 2023 • Tamil Comments
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Italy recently withdrew from China's Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, signaling a shift from being the sole G7 nation to have joined over four years ago. According to a government insider, the decision was discreetly communicated to Beijing via the Corriere della Sera newspaper without an official announcement.

Confirmed by an Italian government source to AFP, the withdrawal aimed to "keep channels of political dialogue open." Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni strongly opposed Italy's involvement, considering it an attempt by Beijing to exert political influence with limited economic benefits.

Initially set to renew by March 2024, Italy's exit was anticipated by year-end. Meloni's government aimed to avoid provoking Beijing and potential backlash against Italian businesses.

Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani hinted at Italy's desire to "revitalize the strategic partnership" with Beijing, emphasizing seeking "better market access" regardless of the BRI participation.

This move preceded a crucial EU-China trade summit in Beijing, the first since 2019, focusing on economic matters.

China claims over 150 nations, from Uruguay to Sri Lanka, have engaged in the initiative, central to President Xi Jinping's goal of augmenting global Chinese influence. Valued at over two trillion dollars, the initiative spans infrastructure projects in Southeast and Central Asia.

Critics argue the initiative burdens poorer nations with debt while enhancing China's geopolitical power. There are mounting concerns, particularly among Western nations, highlighting China's intent to reshape global dynamics and fears of increasing Chinese intervention in local politics within BRI nations.

Although Italy joined in 2019, this recent withdrawal marks a shift under Prime Minister Meloni's leadership from October 2022. A non-binding memorandum between Italy and China encompassed logistics, infrastructure, finance, and the environment. However, limited transparency and economic gains raised doubts.

Despite the exit, experts anticipate modest impacts on trade. Italy aimed for a strategic partnership with China to maintain dignity, according to Giuliano Noci, a China expert at the Milan Polytechnic business school.

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