China slams ‘malicious hype’ of Italy’s next move on Belt and Road Initiative

China slams ‘malicious hype’ of Italy’s next move on Belt and Road Initiative

Italy, which joined scheme in 2019 as only major western member, is said to planning an exit

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ISTANBUL (AA) – China on Friday warned of “malicious hype” amid reports that Italy's far-right government could pull out of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) infrastructure plan.

“Some forces have launched malicious hype and politicized the cultural exchange and trade cooperation between China and Italy under the Belt and Road framework to disrupt cooperation and create division,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Italy in 2019 became the first and only G-7 nation to join China's initiative, which critics say would give Beijing control of key technologies and infrastructures. The BRI scheme envisions to connect China with Asia, Europe and beyond with vast amounts of infrastructure spending.

Italian Prime Minister Georgian Meloni said in May it was possible to maintain good relations with Beijing without being part of the plan, suggesting it may exit the agreement.

“The signing of the Belt and Road cooperation document unleashed great enthusiasm and potential for bilateral cooperation,” said the statement, emphasizing increase in bilateral trade over the past years.

Beijing said the two countries have “jointly built large-scale cruise ships and carried out third-market cooperation in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America."

“Italy has become the top European destination for Chinese tourists, and Italian art exhibitions and performances are quite popular in China,” the ministry added.

It added that the “bid to disrupt cooperation and create division” between China and Italy “goes against the trend of history and will hurt others without benefiting oneself.”

Meloni met US President Joe Biden at the White House last week, and a joint statement, besides other matters, said the two leaders emphasized their will to strengthen dialogue on the "opportunities and challenges posed by the People's Republic of China."

She has also announced plans to visit China, where she could meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Last week, Italy’s Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said Rome’s decision to join the BRI was a “wicked” strategy and did little to improve the country’s exports.

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