In the name of trust. As the Meloni government grapples with a key decision – whether to drop Italy’s participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative – envoys of the Chinese Communist Party are bent on pressuring Italian institutional and community leaders to stay. All while clarifying what kind of consequence (perhaps a boycott?) such a “lack of trust” could entail.
- Liu Jianchao, head of the CCP’s International Relations Department, did just that when he made his way to Milan to meet a community of Italian entrepreneurs.
- There he attended a closed-door meeting with Mario Boselli, President of the Italy China Council Foundation (which was established last year through the integration of the Italy China Foundation and the Italy-China Chamber of Commerce).
The Silk Ode in Milan. While in Italy’s economic capital, Mr Liu discussed the BRI. According to a note from the CCP, talks centred on the “long history of friendship between Italy and China” and the “economic and commercial cooperation that has closely linked the two countries.” Expressing his appreciation for the Foundation’s work “in developing pragmatic cooperation between the two countries,” he said the BRI-sanctioned cooperation is “righteous” in the name of “a strategic, forward-looking and mutually beneficial path” and called for a climate of “trust” between Italian and Chinese entrepreneurs.
- According to the CCP document, the Italians in attendance pointed out that China “is not only a huge market for Italian companies to invest and develop their business, but also a strategic base for Italian companies to enter Asia” and, conversely, Italy “is also a gateway for Chinese companies to enter Europe.”
- With this in mind, reads the CCP text, “Italian entrepreneurs firmly support Italy and China” on renewing the BRI deal. Even though the note circulated by the Italy China Council Foundation, only mentions the BRI among the “numerous topics addressed” in the closed-door meeting.
The encore in Rome. After Milan, Mr Liu travelled to Rome to meet Italian MPs and political figureheads, including Senate President Ignazio La Russa, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani and Democratic Party leader Elly Schlein (as well as the leaders of Italian communist parties, which didn’t manage to enter Parliament due to lack of votes).
- He also participated in an event organised by the Italianieuropei Foundation chaired by former PM Massimo D’Alema.
Singing the same tune. China’s Ambassador to Italy, Jia Guide, also touted the need for “trust” in a lengthy interview with Fanpage, noting that if Rome were to “recklessly” decide not to renew the BRI deal – “a platform that accentuates political trust and the high strategic profile of cooperation” – it would certainly “dampen the enthusiasm of cooperation in many spheres, including the political, economic, commercial and cultural spheres.”
- Such a decision “would have a negative impact on his country’s image, credibility and cooperation prospects,” added Ambassador Jia, calling on Italy (as Mr Jiu then did) to do the “correct” thing and take “the correct decisions autonomously, independently, and in line with its own national interests and the fundamental interests of the Italian people.”
- Words that clash with the calls for non-interference in internal affairs he reiterated three times in the same interview.
Image: China Daily
This article was updated to reflect Mr Liu’s meeting with Mr Tajani.