Xi says China-Italy pact offers closer ties in strategic sectors

Chinese President Xi Jinping, brushing aside U.S. and European concerns ahead of his visit to Rome (more on p11), offered Italy a “global strategic partnership” stretching from building the new Silk Road together to boosting ties in sensitive sectors including telecoms and ports.

Writing in daily Corriere della Sera, Xi invoked a “new era” in relations between China and Italy, where he’ll arrive today. The Chinese leader and his populist hosts are set to sign a controversial memorandum of understanding giving Italy a role in Beijing’s massive Belt and Road infrastructure project.

“We are ready, together with out Italian counterparts, to build Belt and Road together – the new Silk Road,” Xi wrote. He urged stronger cooperation in telecommunications, developing Italian ports, shipping, aeronautics, aerospace and pharmaceuticals.

Italy will be the first Group of Seven country to sign a Belt and Road memorandum, fueling U.S. concerns about an open door for China into strategic sectors like telecoms and ports. European Union allies have also voiced disquiet about Italy’s bilateral approach, seen as deviating from the group’s policy of dealing with China as a bloc.

China is ready for closer ties “at the highest levels and to reinforce cooperation at all levels between our governments, parliaments, parties and local authorities,” Xi wrote yesterday.

The Chinese leader also offered to “reinforce coordination” between China and Italy in international bodies from the United Nations to the G-20 and the World Trade Organization on issues from global governance to climate change.

The president also paid homage to the history, lifestyle and art heritage of “my dear Italian friends,” recalling explorer Marco Polo who “set off the first passion for China.” John Follain, Bloomberg

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