Italy’s defense minister Guido Crosetto has blasted his country’s 2019 decision to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), calling the move “improvised and villainous.”
“The choice to join the Silk Road was an improvised and villainous act, made by the government of Giuseppe Conte, which led to a double negative result,” Crosetto lamented to Italian media on Sunday.
While China has “tripled its exports to Italy in three years,” the minister continued, Italy has “exported a bunch of oranges to China,” referring to the growing trade imbalance between the two nations.
“The most ridiculous thing then was that Paris, without signing any treaties, sold planes to Beijing for tens of billions,” he added.
At the time, Italy was the largest economy to sign on to the BRI and still today it is the only G7 country to do so.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has referred to the BRI agreement as a “grave mistake” and this weekend Crosetto confirmed Italy’s intentions of pulling out of the accord.
“The matter today is how to retrace our steps without damaging relationships,” he said. “Because it is true that China is a competitor, but it is also a partner.”
“Beijing has increasingly assertive attitudes,” Crosetto continued. “At one time it set out to be the biggest commercial player in the world. Today it announces it will be the largest military player in the world.”
“They are expanding,” he said, noting that in Africa, China has “started an expansion of a cultural nature: the comics describe the Chinese as liberators and the Westerners as exploiters to be driven out.”
Beijing doesn’t hide its goals, “but makes them explicit,” he said.
One of the problems faced by the current administration is to silently solve the surreal problems caused by previous administrations, Crosetto said, referring to the Conte government’s “festival of amateurism.”
Last May, Meloni said that it is possible to have good relations with Beijing without the BRI. The agreement expires in 2024 but will automatically renew unless one of the parties pulls out before then, which Italy is expected to do.
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