Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is set to make Italy a member of the Belt and Road initiative once Xi Jinping lands in Rome this week. The Belt and Road Initiative is China’s global development, infrastructure and trade project looking to recreate the maritime and historic trade routes of the Silk Road. Conte has pledged that Italy will sign up, despite significant international pressure from the United States and EU urging against it. Italy plans on the initiative bolstering collaboration and investment into its northern ports, and developing trade partnerships and commercial ties.
China has become notorious throughout Africa for endebting countries through loans for infrastructure, along with bringing Chinese companies and workers into the partner nations. As countries revise their trade strategies, more are looking to the east to strengthen their ties. Italy will be the first European country to take it a step further by joining on to Xi’s initiative. The implications of the Belt and Road are about more than just trade, with potential collaborations including Huawei’s 5G network, pairing wine regions, numerous commercial partnerships, and even “twinning relationships” to support tourism exchanges between their world heritage sites and destinations worldwide. This is a first step in Europe towards instituionalising China’s influence in not only economics and trade but in culture.