Italy ‘Carefully’ Reevaluates Its Participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative

June 14, 2021 Updated: June 15, 2021

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said at the Group of Seven (G-7) summit that Italy is reassessing China’s investments in the country “carefully,” shifting away from the pro-Beijing policies of the previous government.

During the summit, Draghi expressed concern about the Chinese Communist regime.

“It’s an autocracy that does not adhere to multilateral rules and does not share the same vision of the world that the democracies have,” he said at a press conference during the G-7 summit on June 13.

While the newcomer of the G-7 admitted the importance of economic cooperation, Draghi noted the difference between the Chinese regime and the West.

“We also need to be frank about the things that we do not share and do not accept. The U.S. president said that silence is complicity,” he said.

When asked about Italy’s participation in Beijing’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Draghi hinted that the Chinese investment initiative would be reevaluated by Italian officials.

“Regarding that specific agreement, we will assess it carefully,” he said.

The BRI is a multi-trillion-dollar infrastructure plan that seeks to boost the regime’s influence through global trade links and infrastructure-based development projects that have pressured participating countries to take on high debt burdens.

Italy endorsed the G-7’s new global infrastructure initiative, called Build Back Better World, or B3W, a rival to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) growing influence through the BRI in the developing world. The more than $40 trillion plan will invest in ports, roads, and other infrastructure in low- and middle-income countries worldwide.

Italy was the first G-7 country to join Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s signature BRI, against the advice of the United States and other G-7 members. Former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a BRI memorandum during Xi’s state visit in March 2019.

The Draghi government is taking precautionary measures in dealing with China. In March 2021, the prime minister signed a decree to stop the Italian telecommunications firm Fastweb from contracting with Huawei and ZTE, companies with ties to the Chinese military.

The White House said on June 12 that Draghi agreed to work with Biden “on global challenges,” and the two countries “shared foreign policy priorities, including China, Russia, and Libya” during the meeting at the end of the G-7 summit.

In Sunday’s communique, the members of the G-7–the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, Italy, France, and Japan—called on the Chinese regime “to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms” in Xinjiang and Hong Kong, to cooperate with a probe into the origin of the COVID-19, and vowed to deter Beijing’s “non-market policies and practices.”

More EU countries have been reexamining their relationship with China, which has recently led the European Parliament to freeze a pending trade deal with Beijing after seven years of negotiations between the two parties.