Italy Withdraws From China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Italy has told China that it intends to withdraw from its Belt and Road Infrastructure Initiative (BRI) about three months before its agreement expires in March. Italy was the only G7 nation to join China’s initiative, though many other European Union countries have signed on to BRI.

Italy’s move to withdraw has been expected by many, as Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has expressed criticism over the project. The initiative was agreed upon by Italy’s former Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte in 2019.

Many Italian officials critical of BRI have said the initiative was China’s way of buying political allies and influence in Rome. Others state that there are many benefits for Beijing, but very few benefits for Italy in this agreement. While China’s exports often increase through this project, analysts say that Italy’s exports to China do not.

The BRI is an important project for China, as Beijing intends to improve infrastructure in various countries to help increase trade. With money going towards shipping routes and improved roads, China hopes to connect with nations throughout Europe and Asia.

However, some critics state that the initiative is only a tool for Beijing to spread its influence around the world. Others state that China uses the BRI to get countries in debt — and from 2008 to 2021, they bailed out various countries in debt because of BRI to the tune of $240 billion.

Though no official statement has been released from Italy about the withdrawal from this project, many Italian officials and political analysts are not surprised. Earlier this year, Corriere della Sera, Italy’s defense minister, explained that he believed the BRI agreement between Italy and China was a bad decision to make.

“The decision to join the [new] Silk Road was an improvised and atrocious act,” he said. However, he also said that, while Italy needed to leave the agreement, they also needed to ensure they kept close ties with China, which has the second largest economy in the world.

“The issue today is how to walk back [from the BRI] without damaging relations [with Beijing],” he explained. “Because it is true that China is a competitor, but it is also a partner.”