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Italy, China and the new Silk Road

Discussing the role of Italy in the recent Belt and Road Forum

Italy, China and the new Silk Road

Claudia Astarita

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The Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation recently held in Beijing (14-15 May 2017) gathered a number of important personalities from 29 countries around the world, including the Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

The main goal of the meeting was to promote the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), conceived by the Chines President Xi Jinping to increase the connection between China and 65 countries from Europe, Asia and Africa.

The Forum stands out as a very relevant event given its spillover effect in other fields. For instance, it is not a coincidence that one day before the opening of the Forum, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was created in Beijing to promote the BRI and it looks as an alter ego of the World Bank based in Washington. The AIIB members are 77 today and Italy is among them, standing out as one of the Bank founding members in 2015.

The Forum should be held every two years in order to monitor the actual status of projects launched within the Silk Road Initiative, which sees China involved in a greater cooperation with Eurasia countries. President Xi announced that regular sessions of the forum should be regularly held for at least three decades, coming to an end in 2049.

Chinese investments in Italy have increased a lot in the last few years of the Silk Road Initiative. A great example is Pirelli acquisition by Chem China, which was supported for a 25 % by the Silk Road Fund. Also recent acquisitions of iconic Italian football clubs - such as Milan and Inter - indicate how strong Chinese presence in Italy is growing.

Unfortunately, as noted by the Italian scholar Nicola Casarini, Prime Minister Gentiloni had a private meeting with Xi Jinping, but he did not participate in the Forum where, instead, other G7 countries such as France, Germany and the UK sent their delegates. While wishing for further growth in the relationship between the two countries, we also need to hope for an increase of Italy's rate of participation in important international fora.

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