During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Italy in March 2019, the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). And with this memorandum, Italy became the only G7 country to join the BRI — which was seen as a major diplomatic breakthrough by Beijing.

Still the subject of ongoing debate within Italy itself, this agreement has faced strong criticism from both the United States and the European Union, as many Western countries view the BRI as a Trojan horse for Beijing’s geopolitical interests. And now, the memorandum is to be automatically renewed in March 2024, unless Italy formally requests to withdraw from it three months in advance.

Along these lines, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in May that Italy was planning to hold talks with China regarding a possible withdrawal, sparking intense discussion within the country. And since then, China has not only warned that such a decision would damage Italy’s reputation and credibility, but Beijing also launched diplomatic efforts to persuade it otherwise, with officials lobbying and meeting with Italian politicians and business leaders, utilizing China’s standard tactic of “using business to exert political pressure.”… [Continue Reading]