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Lau Policy Series

Lau Policy Series 2020: China in the World

The Lau Policy Series brings researchers, academics and policymakers together to discuss key policy challenges relating to China. From China’s impact on renewable technology to tensions with the United States, the series aims to present clear analyses to help us understand contemporary China, its actions and its effect on the world.

This inaugural series, titled ‘China in the World’, will explore how China operates beyond its borders in its new role as a political and economic superpower. It will look at issues ranging from the changing role of diplomacy to the creation of new foreign investment programmes such as the belt and road initiative.

As an integral part of the series we will be publishing policy papers. Alongside the papers, we will be hosting a series of discussions, interviews and events which delve into the topics in more detail.

Policy papers

Italy is the European country that has made the biggest commitment so far to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This was during the visit by Xi Jinping to the country in March 2019. Despite pressure from the US, Italy became the first European country to accord the BRI this kind of recognition. In China, this obviously was important for publicity and propaganda. For Italy, it caused tensions with other partners in the EU, many of whom had resisted going along a similar route. The question is whether it was worth it. With over a year elapsing since the deal was signed, that is the question this paper asks. What has Italy got from the BRI?

This paper identifies the risks (of both geopolitical and financial nature) run by Italy by signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), and analyses the content of the MoU and the data describing China’s involvement in Italy and vice versa. The aim is to recognise if the signing of the MoU has brought about any concrete change in addressing Italy’s core needs or if it has mainly provided China with valuable validation from an EU founding country and through part of the G7 becoming part of the BRI. Data prove that the MoU, with bilateral agreements between Italy and China, is not fit to address Italian problems and has not translated into any material change for Italy. Based on this evidence, the paper offers recommendations to try to find a more secure and concrete strategy within the framework of the EU and to improve Italy’s flagship sectors, which are also those that data show as being the ones of greater Chinese involvement. The recommendations are offered to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation directly, as well as to the Italian Trade Agency and to the Italian Ministry of Economic Development.

View the paper

Series Editorial Board