Italy’s top diplomat tried to reassure China on ties even as Rome looks increasingly likely to withdraw from President’s Xi Jinping’s flagship infrastructure initiative.
(Bloomberg) — Italy’s top diplomat tried to reassure China on ties even as Rome looks increasingly likely to withdraw from President’s Xi Jinping’s flagship infrastructure initiative.
Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said in a post on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, after meeting Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing on Monday that Italy was “actively working to foster dialogue and exchanges in the cultural, economic and scientific fields.” He also said the meeting with China’s most senior foreign policy official was something “we want to continue.”
Wang told Tajani that “cooperation in jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative has yielded fruitful results,” according to a statement from China’s Foreign Ministry, adding that it benefited the two nations’ trade.
The exchange seems unlikely to prevent Italy from leaving the Belt and Road Initiative that China has rolled out to build infrastructure — and expand its influence — mostly in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. Tajani visited Beijing to discuss the possibility of leaving the agreement that Rome signed onto in 2019, which he said had fallen short of expectations. Regardless of what Italy decides regarding the pact, “it will not be a message against China,” he said.
See: Italy Moves to Weaken China Ties Without Upsetting Beijing
Italy, like much of Europe, has been caught in the middle as tensions escalate between Washington and Beijing, and that’s been compounded by China’s support for Russia since it invaded Ukraine. European countries are struggling to balance a desire to engage with China on trade and investment while pushing back against claims of economic coercion and human rights concerns.
Abandoning BRI risks angering Beijing. China’s ambassador to Italy, Jia Guide, has warned there would be “negative consequences” if Italy “recklessly decides” to withdraw. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni recently briefed President Joe Biden during a visit to Washington on her plan to curb Italy’s reliance on China. She’s also said she plans to visit China.
Beijing will host a summit celebrating the BRI’s 10th anniversary in October. Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted an invitation from Xi to attend, in what would be his first foreign trip since a warrant for his arrest on alleged war crimes was issued by the International Criminal Court.
–With assistance from Clara Ferreira Marques.
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