On September 29 and 30, 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid an official visit to Italy and Vatican City. The reasons for the visit concerned the recent socio-economic developments between Italy and China, at a time when the United States has inaugurated a new phase of the cold war against the People’s Republic of China.

Accustomed to being at the pinnacle of global economy, the US is nervous about China’s growing influence in Europe and its constant technological development: Washington wants to prevent Huawei and other Chinese suppliers from conquering the market of new technologies and the 5G network.

5G Antenna developed by Huawei

Landed in Rome, Pompeo stated that “the Chinese Communist Party is trying to take advantage of its presence in Italy for its own strategic purposes, they’re not here to make sincere partnerships” and that “all the players who can bring an end to the authoritarian regime of the Chinese Communist Party must do so. It was our mission before and it will remain so after the elections”. Aware of their McCarthyist past, the American government wants to face China not only on a strictly economic level, but on an ideological one as well. Enslaved to the American economic doctrine, Italian foreign minister Di Maio (M5S) reassured Pompeo that Italy is “tightly anchored to the US and the EU”.

“I believe that Pompeo’s attack is completely unfounded and lacking awareness and knowledge” said the president of Huawei Italy, Luigi de Vecchis, speaking at an event in the weekend. “Security is something which has existed for over 30 years in the telecommunications sector and it is discussed in international committees” added De Vecchis, stressing that “our machines are exactly as the others and there is no evidence that there has been the slightest critical situation in this regard”.

The Italian Foreign Minister later added that “Italy has allies, interlocutors and economic partners. A country like ours is open to investment opportunities, but never outside of the Atlantic Alliance”.

Cultural exchanges between Italy and the People’s Republic of China began as early as the 50s. Although both the Italian Communist Party and the Italian Socialist Party pushed for the recognition of

the new Chinese government from the very beginning, this only happened in 1969 thanks to Pietro Nenni – at the time Italian Foreign Minister for the Rumor government. Trade between the two countries intensified, however, since the late 70s following the market opening reforms formulated by Deng Xiaoping.

Without dwelling on the relationship between Italy and China over the long decades since mutual recognition, we would like to focus on the latest socio-economic developments undertaken since 2018/2019 by the Conte I (now Conte II) government.

At a time when some U.S. politicians and tycoons are promoting rivalry and the new “Cold War” that could shock the world, it is necessary to avoid any misunderstanding by shedding light on what trade agreements such as the New Silk Road represent: the strategic socio-economic initiative of the Silk Road was formulated in 2013 by Xi Jinping; among the various countries that have joined, in addition to developing countries including other socialist realities, Italy stands out as the only G7 country to have signed a memorandum.

Firma del memorandum d'Intesa fra Italia e Cina per la nuova via della seta
Signature of the Italy – China Memorandum for the developing of the Belt and Road Initiative in Italy,

The memorandum, signed on March 22, 2019 in Rome, provides 29 agreements for at least seven billion euros and includes major infrastructure investments for transport, energy production, logistics, ports, energy, aviation and telecommunications. These are standard elements of most of the memorandum signed with China for BRI (Belt and Road Initiative) projects. Ten of the 29 agreements signed by the two countries relate to private and state economic arrangements, nineteen fall within the institutional collaboration, followed by a list of the most important:

  • “Memorandum of Understanding on collaboration in the ‘Economic Silk Road’ and the Maritime Silk Road Initiative of the 21st Century.”
  • “Memorandum of Understanding between the Italian Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China on cooperation in the field of electronic commerce”.
  • “Action Plan on Health Collaboration”.
  • “Memorandum of Understanding between the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research and the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China on the strengthening of cooperation on Science, Technology and Innovation”.
  • “Memorandum of Understanding between the Italian Space Agency and the China National Space Administration on cooperation on the mission “China Seism-Electromagnetic Satellite 02” (CSES-02)”.

As a result of the agreements made, part of the Conte government belonging to the 5 Star Movement (M5S) was more open to multilateral cooperation with countries outside the Euro-Atlantic sphere, unlike the pro-European parties. The Democratic Party (PD), in fact, immediately expressed an opposition to such agreements justified by an anti-communism that has long distinguished the center-left throughout Europe. The right of Salvini – at the time part of the Conte I government -, Meloni and Berlusconi expressed the same opposition fearing a “Chinese colonization”. Instead, the opinion of the main communist parties in Italy was different: communists consider the Sino-Italian collaboration a way to affirm an economic independence from the USA and the European Union. According to the communists, moreover, these agreements could benefit the proletariat and the Italian workers provided that they shift the power relations in their favor, developing an effective class struggle.

The Italian government has radically changed its position on China in the course of a year by joining the “Anti-Chinese Crusade” conceived by the United States. The economic sanctions on the Asian country, sanctions against prominent officials and members of the Chinese Communist Party, close surveillance on companies and ethnic Chinese inhabitants of the United States in order to trigger a real sinophobia, the brazen disclosure of fake news and unfounded condemnations against China – such as the accusations of having created the Covid-19 virus in laboratory -, the ban of different apps and much more important, the Pivot to Asia, converge in a tactic of isolation of China by the Western imperialist powers, as has happened and still happens also with other socialist countries and/or countries opposed to U.S. and NATO policies.

The strategy adopted by the United States, the Pivot to Asia, was proposed in 2011 by Hillary Clinton and became official during the Obama presidency: in order to isolate China, the United States establishes diplomatic, economic and military relations with countries in Asia and the Pacific and increases its military presence in countries such as South Korea or Japan. The Trump administration has continued this program, fuelling clashes with China as happened in Hong Kong.

The intense relationship between the “democratic” leaders in Hong Kong and numerous USA politician or government member.

The much-discussed protests in Hong Kong that have seen the Central Chinese government, the Hong Kong government and their supporters on the one hand, and demonstrators funded by Washington and London on the other, who still claim sovereignty over the city of the Pearl River Delta – despite the joint declaration that ordered the retransfer of the British colony to China in 1997 – represent a coup attempt to destabilize the Red Dragon country.

Violent Riots in Hong Kong
Violent riots in Hong Kong (Credits: Xinhua.net)

On the issue of Hong Kong, the Italian government and the opposition parties have supported clear positions: the Five Star Movement, although it has formally declared neutrality, has expressed a “serious concern” about the current events; Di Maio’s words (“It is necessary to preserve the stability, prosperity, autonomy and the system of freedom and fundamental rights of Hong Kong”.) have shown, instead, a not respected neutrality. Opposed to the timid line of the M5S, recalling Italy’s interventionist past, both center left and right wing parties have immediately affirmed their support to the Hong Kong protesters by inviting the leader Joshua Wong – known for his acquaintances with Republican members of the U.S. Senate – by videoconferencing, effectively entering into an internal discussion of another country and, for this reason, attracting the justified wrath of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Italy.

In recent decades China has engaged in co-development with other countries through trade and mutually beneficial civil projects in its peaceful rise, instead of fighting in the land of others as some hegemonic power has done year after year. For generations, China has promised not to seek hegemony and its leaders, from Mao Zedong to Deng Xiaoping to the current leader Xi Jinping, have kept its words.

“China has no intention of fighting a Cold War with any country in this world,” said President Xi in his statement to the general debate at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly on September 22. “China is the largest developing country in the world, a country that is committed to peaceful, open, cooperative and common development,” he added.

Therefore, although China has always shown an interest in being totally peaceful towards other countries, without influencing their politics and without meddling in anyone’s internal affairs – as specified in the preamble of the Chinese Constitution: “The future of China is closely linked to that of the whole world. China adheres to an independent foreign policy as well as to the five principles of mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence in developing diplomatic relations and economic and cultural exchanges with other countries; China is consistently opposes imperialism, hegemonism and colonialism, works to strengthen unity with the peoples of other countries, supports the oppressed nations and developing countries in their just struggle to win and preserve national independence and develop their national economies, and strives to safeguard world peace and promote the cause of human progress. ” -, Western countries have instead shown that they have no intention of doing the same, wanting to fuel a new Cold War.

Will Italy continue to move towards a new global conflict in line with the Atlanticist and anti-Chinese policy, or will it take a step towards a new multilateralism?

Articles by Matt C. and A. L.