The left is worried about Italy. Giorgia Meloni—whose Brothers of Italy party unfortunately has historical links to Benito Mussolini’s fascists and has shown some support for Vladimir Putin’s Russia—won 44 percent of the vote on Sept. 26 and is set to become Italy’s first female prime minister.
In her teens, Meloni praised Mussolini, which The Atlantic cites, breathlessly warning of “the return of fascism in Italy.”
CNN calls her “Italy’s most far-right prime minister since Mussolini.”
However, it’s not quite that dire. Meloni has more recently denounced fascism as a historical footnote to modern conservatism and has said that some actually call her a “traitor” to the 20th-century totalitarian ideology.
In a July 26 Twitter post, she expressed her support for Taiwan, saying she is “Always alongside those who believe in the values of freedom and democracy.” That doesn’t sound fascist.
China is one of today’s closest countries politically to Mussolini’s Italy or Hitler’s Germany. Yet, Meloni takes a tougher stand against Beijing than do many liberals, who use support for global trade as an excuse to ignore ethics for profit in totalitarian China.
Given that Mussolini’s fascism was the original totalitarianism, we can conclude that Meloni is actually less totalitarian than any of the center-left or center-right who continue to support engagement with China.
Italy’s last center-left prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, was still tipping his hat, nine months after the finding of genocide in China, to trade with the country.
Former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, also center-left, reportedly has an adviser “secretly helping him to explore partnerships and establish relations with the right people in China.”
The populist Giuseppi Conte, as prime minister in 2019, was the first and only G-7 leader to lead his country into China’s mercantilist Belt and Road Initiative (BRI, also known as “One Belt, One Road”).
Italy took a slightly tougher stance on China under its most recent prime minister, Mario Draghi. However, as recently as March, this political independent naively called for open dialogue with Beijing to stop it from supporting Moscow.
Meloni, a former Italian sports minister, will be tougher. In that role, she called in 2008 to boycott the Beijing Olympics and advocated international mobilization to support Tibet.
In 2019, she called joining BRI a “big mistake” and had since suggested that the China–Italy memorandum of understanding on BRI will not be renewed when it expires in 2024.
After the People’s Liberation Army simulated a blockade of Taiwan in August, Meloni promised support against China’s “unacceptable” behavior. She called the island democracy a “strategic trade partner.” She said that the European Union should maximize pressure against Beijing by deploying political, economic, and diplomatic “weapons at its disposal,” including a potential ban on trade if China invaded.
She has criticized the Chinese Communist Party for its human rights abuse in Xinjiang and Hong Kong and its ambiguity in addressing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. She said she would limit Beijing’s economic expansion by providing alternatives such as the European Union’s Global Gateway to less-developed countries seeking infrastructure development without the BRI’s “Chinese penetration.”
Meloni warned of overdependence on supply chains to China, including for computer chips, and advocated friendshoring and nearshoring to bring strategic manufacturing closer to home.
A member of her party, Sen. Lucio Malan, co-chairs the Italian chapter of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, a global forum for legislators to coordinate democratic defenses against Beijing. He also leads the Italy–Taiwan Interparliamentary Friendship Group.
While the left self-interestedly hypes dubious smears about Meloni’s “fascism,” it should be honest enough to acknowledge her tougher approach to the world’s most dangerous dictators of today—those in Beijing and Moscow.
Admittedly, Meloni and her coalition haven't been as clear-eyed on Moscow as she has been on Beijing. But that changed after Putin attempted to sack Kyiv. Now, she supports sending military equipment to Ukraine and is an Atlanticist supporter of NATO and the European Union (the latter in part because Italy is increasingly the beneficiary of EU largesse).
Some center-left media is coming around. The New York Times calls Meloni “extreme” but “no tyrant.” The Financial Times noted that her election “merits concern but not panic.”
“While there are valid concerns about the fascist origins of Meloni’s party, what I hear when I listen to her are mainstream Conservative values,” gushed the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson.
Meloni’s currently tough approach to Moscow and Beijing supports that view. As the duly elected representative of her country, and one who rejected her earlier mistakes, Meloni deserves a fresh start and a fair hearing from all sides of the political spectrum. She deserves the chance to lead Italy with the honor and respect of her peers. Her views on foreign policy and international trade are certainly fresh enough to ensure that we will learn something during her tenure.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).