Chinese President Xi Jinping is wrapping up his overseas jaunt of the year, visiting Europe on a mission to strengthen Beijing’s ties to the region.
- Italy is the first G7 country to sign up to the Belt and Road Initiative
- France signed a bilateral deal with China but questioned China’s BRI
- Belt and Road initiative aims to connect Asia to Europe by building a new ‘silk road’
- China wants ‘new Silk Road’ One Belt One Road project to help it dominate world trade
The trip was described as being of “historic significance” to China, according to state media, with the country’s powerful leader visiting Italy, France and Monaco and signing a series of multi-billion-dollar deals over the past few days.
But one aspect of Mr Xi’s trip has Western observers and European allies particularly concerned — Italy’s decision to sign up to Beijing’s controversial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as more than two dozen other trade and infrastructure agreements.
In doing so, Italy has become the first Group of Seven nation — which includes powerful economies like the UK, the USA, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, and Canada — to join the initiative, which was previously rejected by most Western countries, including Australia.
The BRI under Mr Xi has been described by analysts as one of the largest and most ambitious foreign policy and economic plans in modern history, as it aims to re-establish a “silk road” connecting China’s underdeveloped regions to Europe via Asia.
Overnight, Mr Xi also signed a multi-billion-dollar deal with French President Emmanuel Macron, however the French leader did not agree to sign onto the BRI.