Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni recently informed officials in Beijing, China, that Italy would withdraw from the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Meloni’s decision comes three months after she publicly revealed her intention to pull out from the communist-dominated BRI. The Italian prime minister said she was determined to maintain “mutually beneficial” relations with China.
🚨 Italy withdraws from China's Belt and Road project. pic.twitter.com/AaFoTrFFXM
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China’s BRI has been heavily criticized by many countries worldwide, who referred to the measure as “debt-trap diplomacy,” considering that the CCP uses predatory loans for its infrastructure projects in developing nations across Asia, Africa, South America, and Eastern Europe, allowing China to expand its influence.
A prominent official in the Italian government confirmed that Rome had contacted Beijing about withdrawing from the BRI, which would have been renewed for another five years in early 2024.
In 2019, Italy became the first G7 nation to join China’s BRI — a move met with backlash from some of the country’s Western allies.
A senior adviser at the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, Stefano Stefanini, said that in 2019, Italy “underestimated the geopolitical relevance of the initiative.”
“They thought that Italy could get away with cozying up to China despite being the only G7 country to do it,” Stefanini continued. “There is now an official G7 policy called de-risking. The US had made it clear to the present Italian government that participation was incompatible with Italy’s position in the G7.”
Italy’s government had often tried to withdraw from the BRI peacefully without jeopardizing its relations with Beijing.
Italian foreign minister Antonio Tajani previously traveled to Beijing to converse about withdrawing. In September 2023, Meloni and Chinese Premier Li Qiang spoke about the issue during the G20 summit in New Delhi, India.
Some in Italy’s government expressed disappointment with Meloni’s decision.
The former undersecretary of Italy’s Ministry of Economic Development in 2019, Michele Geraci, was thrilled with the country joining the CCP-led BRI at the time, but in light of recent events, Geraci criticized Meloni for departing from the initiative.
“There is no upside in exiting,” Geraci said. “It is a decision that will hurt Italian companies who need the protection of the government to do business around the world. I expect that our exports will suffer a lot. Chinese consumer reaction will be fierce against made-in-Italy luxury products.”