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Italy joins China’s Silk Road Initiative
March 23, 2019, 4:46 pm

Chinese President Xi Jinping has been seeking to expand the number of countries joining the Silk Road [Archive]

China has hailed the beginning of a new era in ties with Italy following President Xi Jinping’s visit to Rome on the weekend.

Xi met with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and the two presided over a ceremony to sign a memorandum of understanding making Italy the first G7 country to join the One Belt One Road initiative, despite US protests over the move.

Xi said the MoU and the growth in bilateral ties are culmination of exchanges between the two countries which go back a thousand years.

The ancient Silk Road connected China and Europe from around 100 B.C. The 6,000-km road linked ancient Chinese, Indian, Babylonian, Arabic, Greek and Roman civilizations.

Trade conducted along the Silk Road reached much of Arabia and the eastern Africa and allowed for a proliferation of not just tradeable commodities like spices and textiles, but science and technology.

In recent years, the two countries have continuously deepened their communication and cooperation in various fields, which helped each other’s social and economic development, Xi said.

The Initiative is core to Xi’s vision to expand China’s economic prowess westward; it has become all the more crucial in light of Chinese admission that GDP growth has slowed significantly over the past ten years, from double digits to just six per cent projected for 2020.

Xi wants to revive the splendor of the ancient Silk Road to create an Economic Belt – a 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to facilitate lucrative trade deals with the West and thereby entrench Chinese influence over an area of several thousand kilometers spanning dozens of countries.

The Chinese President had earlier met with President Sergio Mattarella and discussed ways to jointly celebrate the 50th anniversary of their diplomatic ties.

Xi also pledged to work with Italy on climate change and how to ensure that the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is met.

2019 also marks the 15th anniversary of the Italy-China comprehensive strategic partnership.

Italy, an EU and NATO partner and member of the G7 industrialized nations has been criticized by the US for joining the Chinese Silk Road.

A Washington Post article on March 23 accused Italy of “defying the wishes of the Trump administration”.

The Italians, however, say the move makes economic sense and will help lift their economy from its near stagnation. Italy entered a technical recession at the beginning of 2019.

Italy’s central bank forecasts just 0.6 per cent growth in 2019 after two consecutive quarters of contraction in 2018; Chinese investments, some Italian economists say, could be a saving grace.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies

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