In the lead-up to the Italian PM’s meeting with the US President, Beijing is speaking out via a diplomatic statement, two editorials, one opinion, and two interviews (one of which was published in Italy’s top economic publication). Preventing Italy from abandoning the Belt and Road Initiative is the goal.
Ahead to the Biden-Meloni discussions, China puts pressure on Italy. The Italian Prime Minister will be greeted at the White House by the American President tomorrow (June 27). The two will undoubtedly talk about Beijing’s position in the globe and how to handle it; for Rome, this means determining whether to extend its participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.
PM Meloni is considering leaving the BRI, and her staff is debating when and how to let China know. China, in turn, has been on the information offensive to persuade Italy to continue with its initiative.
a propaganda assault. An editorial, an interview with the ambassador to Italy, Jia Guide, and an outside analysis on the subject were all published over the course of the last several hours by the Chinese state-run publication Global Times. The Chinese Foreign Ministry also offered its opinion on the matter, and the Communist Party’s foreign affairs chief spoke with the top business publication in Italy.
All of this rhetoric, which bemoans Italy’s inevitable fall backwards, seems to be directed at China as well as (and possibly much more so) at Italy. Which is intriguing given that the BRI—which does not directly include the US—will not be the topic of discussion between President Biden and Prime Minister Meloni.
A more thorough and organized summary of the CCP’s propaganda is provided below.
Takeaways from The Global Times. On Sunday, Prime Minister Meloni said that she would not bring up the BRI in her discussions with President Biden and emphasized that he never inquired as to what she planned to do in response. According to Wang Yiwei, Director of the Institute of International Affairs at China’s Renmin University, such “denial” was “a de facto acknowledgement that the US is putting pressure on Italy to withdraw,” according to an article published on Monday in the Global Times.
The article then refutes PM Meloni’s assertion that “one can have good relations, even in important areas, with Beijing without these necessarily being part of an overall strategic plan” and recalls earlier statements made by Ambassador Jia about the “potential negative impacts” of leaving “a platform that has demonstrated mutual political trust and improved the level of strategic cooperation between the two countries.”
Another article that day cautioned that discussing the matter between the US and Italy is “not acceptable or appropriate.”
A third essay by Deborah Veneziale, who identified herself as a “American journalist based in Italy,” argued against Rome forsaking the BRI’s economic advantages in favor of following the US’ geopolitical agenda.
For perspective, Ms. Veneziale had contrasted the US with China’s “peaceful rise” in an interview she gave to the Global Times in November, saying that the US was “a country that was originally built on slavery and genocide” and that Italy wished to renounce the BRI membership because of the latter.
The remarks of the ambassador The Global Times conducted a “exclusive” interview with Ambassador Jia. Initially, he calls out assertions that BRI collaboration is “futile” as being “baseless, as the facts speak for themselves.” But the statistics indicate the opposite.
Mr. Jia also highlights the agreement to establish a joint venture between the Italo-French chipmaker STMicroelectronics and the Chinese state-owned Sanan Optoelectronics (Rome is tasked with approving the venture).
… and more polite language. Two additional Chinese officials added their voices to the discussion. At the daily press conference on Tuesday, Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said that “it is in the interest of both sides to further exploit the potential of our cooperation.” And on Wednesday, Il Sole 24 Ore, Italy’s top business publication, interviewed Liu Jianchao, director of the CCP’s foreign affairs department, who had visited the country in June to influence political parties and businesses.
Mr. Liu said that “considering the historical legacy” between Rome and Beijing, “inertia must be overcome, and new strategic content must be attributed to the China-Italy relationship.” He said that in order for the two to “form new consensuses” via “new political dialogues,” they must step up their interactions with institutions, the political arm of local government, and collaboration with multilateral organizations.
Speech made as Rome is the center of the world’s attention for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization conference and the Development and Migration Conference.
Manufacturing, clean energy, and aerospace are among the sectors of cooperation that “need to be strengthened,” according to Mr. Liu. He also expressed his hope that “Chinese companies in Italy will be treated fairly,” using victimizing language to criticize Rome’s efforts to rein in the Chinese government’s influence over domestic firms while conveniently ignoring the numerous reports that Western companies are not treated equally in China.