The One Belt initiative, One Road (OBOR) is controversial as many political analysts consider it a tool of the Chinese government to dominate economically less developed countries. These analysts believe that the discourse in favor of economic integration is just an argument to continue pushing its geopolitical influence.
Under this thinking, Western governments have shown reluctance to participate in China’s integration project. The government of the United States considers that OBOR is a threat to its national security, since it will serve to expand its espionage technology. The governments of Europe, for their part, have legislated to limit the entry of Chinese capital into “strategic sectors,” such as defense and telecommunications. However, Italy agreed to join the Chinese initiative on March 23.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a memorandum with Xi Jinping to join Italy in the infrastructure investment plan, an agreement that presents a risk to the sectors that the European Union has tried to protect. With this agreement, one of the founders of the European Economic Community joins the Beijing investment project.
It is important to mention that the governing coalition in Italy is anti-European in nature, a sign of skepticism about the European Union’s ability to provide a framework that alleviates economic problems in Italy. The Italian government intends to make its bilateral trade flourish with China both to alleviate its trade deficit and to create a complementary (or substitute) capital inflow channel for Europe, which has been showing signs of slowing for several years.
The commercial benefits for China are still uncertain. But the political benefits are remarkable. The memorandum increases the incentive for Eurosceptic countries to continue their distance from the European Union. In addition, faced with the militarization of China, several countries will want to cooperate with it instead of fighting its aspirations.
The memorandum is an agreement between heads of state, so investment projects are not official. However, it is evidence of China’s ability to push its economic expansion agenda over economic and military alliances, which could present a risk to the current geopolitical balance.
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