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Melancholic reflections on Italy’s potential decision to leave BRI

By XU Ying | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-08-04 14:20


As a veteran on bilateral friendship and cooperation, I cannot help but feel a profound sense of melancholy upon learning of Italy's reported consideration to no longer extend the cooperative agreement for the Belt and Road Initiative. This decision, if implemented, would undoubtedly have far-reaching implications for the future of Italy-China relations. It is with a heavy heart that I delve into the ramifications of such a choice and its potential impact on both nations.

The collaboration between Italy and China in the initiative has been a testament to the historical and cultural ties that bind these two nations together. Both countries made a conscientious decision to forge this partnership based on their shared vision for development. The signing of the BRI cooperation agreement served as a catalyst, igniting immense enthusiasm and unlocking the untapped potential for cooperation between Italy and China.

Over the past five years, bilateral trade between the two countries has surged, experiencing a remarkable growth rate of 42 percent, reaching nearly $80 billion last year alone. Italy, as the honored guest country at the Shanghai Import Expo and Hainan International Consumer Products Expo, has successfully introduced numerous products into the Chinese market. Furthermore, joint efforts have been made to construct large-scale cruise ships and engage in trilateral cooperation in Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. Italy has emerged as one of the most favored European destinations for Chinese tourists, while various art exhibitions and performances from Italy have received widespread acclaim in China.

Regrettably, certain forces persistently engage in malicious speculation, politicizing the cultural exchange and economic cooperation under the initiative between China and Italy. Such actions only serve to disrupt and create divisions, contrary to the prevailing global trend of cooperation and integration. By succumbing to these influences, Italy risks harming not only its own interests but also undermining the potential benefits that could be derived from this significant partnership.

Since its inception a decade ago, China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative has adhered to the principles of consultation, cooperation, and shared benefits. It has already signed over 200 cooperation agreements with more than 150 countries and over 30 international organizations. These partnerships have mobilized investments worth trillions of dollars, encompassing over 3,000 collaborative projects and creating 420,000 job opportunities in participating countries. According to World Bank statistics, the long-term effects of the initiative are projected to lift about 40 million people out of poverty worldwide. These facts unequivocally demonstrate that the initiative aligns with the global demand for development and meets the expectations of the international community, consistently displaying remarkable resilience and vitality.

In light of the potential discontinuation of Italy's participation in the initiative, I am filled with deep regret, particularly as a former member of an Italy-China Interministerial Committee. I implore Italy to reconsider the consequences of severing this fruitful partnership. It is my sincere hope that Italy will recognize the immense value that the BRI brings to its own economic growth, cultural exchange, and global standing. By continuing to embrace high-quality development within the framework of the initiative, Italy can play a pivotal role in promoting sustainable global development and facilitating intercultural dialogue and exchange.

The potential decision of Italy to withdraw from the Belt and Road Initiative casts a shadow of melancholy over the future of Italy-China relations. It is my fervent belief that both nations should reflect upon the immense benefits and opportunities that have been generated through their collaboration in the BRI.

Let us not lose sight of the potential for continued growth, mutual understanding, and shared prosperity that this initiative offers. May Italy and China find the wisdom to overcome the challenges and preserve the spirit of cooperation and friendship that has been fostered through the Belt and Road Initiative.

The author was Counselor at the Chinese embassy in Switzerland. The views don't necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

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