Does the Atlanticist Draghi take Italy off the Chinese Silk Road?

Does the Atlanticist Draghi take Italy off the Chinese Silk Road?

The G7 has decided to move towards a new cold war against China. From the demanding clarity on the origins of Covid, to the alleged opposition of Western ‘democracies’ against the authoritarianisms represented in the distorted vision of the liberals from China and Russia, the G7 summit was practically focused on the strategies to be implemented in an attempt to stop the impetuous rise of Beijing.

In this strategy of confrontation, Italy emerges as a country completely aligned with Atlantic positions. At this stage, Rome seems to favor confrontation over the necessary dialogue with China, despite common sense and the fact that Italy’s economic interests would suggest a different strategy.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi, answering questions from journalists at the end of the G7 regarding relations with China, said that the conclusions “were not particularly hard, because we must cooperate” with Beijing, “we must do so in view of the G20, the fight against climate change, the reconstruction of the world after the pandemic”.

“But”, he specifies, “We will do it in a frank way, saying what our vision of the world is”.

A vision of the world, which Draghi made explicit at the end of the meeting held with President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G7.

“Since the formation of the government, I have been very clear that the two pillars of Italian foreign policy are Europeanism and Atlanticism”, said Draghi. Concepts already well understood. No one had even hypothesized that with his government Italy could take on a different role. Indeed, probably one of the ‘mission’ entrusted to the former European central banker is precisely to keep Italy anchored to these disasters: the Europeanism of the fanatics of Brussels and the Atlanticism of the American warmongers.

Do the Italian people benefit from such policies? The answer is no. But this does not interest Mario Draghi. He does not answer to the Italian people and it is not to protect the interests of the people that he arrived at Palazzo Chigi.

An economist of undoubted value cannot fail to know that within the Euro cage, Italy is destined to an even faster decline. The working class of the country will pay the highest price. Already forced to be exploited in exchange for starvation wages, without a straight rag, precarious and ultra-flexible according to the wishes of the ‘market god’, who has a complete free hand as the State is reduced to a minimum as prescribed by neoliberal fanaticism.

But Draghi already knows this: it is the classic effect that occurs when an economy is deprived of the possibility of devaluing its currency. Not being able to devalue the currency, work is devalued. Italy had already experienced this situation under fascism, when the regime decided to link the Italian lira to the British pound as a matter of international prestige. The bill was paid then – as today with the Euro – by the working class.

Maybe Atlanticism is in the interest of the Italian people? Again the answer is no. Italy has been practically occupied by US/NATO bases since the end of World War II. During the First Republic, the country managed to express its own foreign policy in some historical phases, but now, Rome is reduced to the rank of a colony without even a glimmer of sovereignty and is forced to implement policies and measures contrary to its interests.

In this regard, let’s see the sanctions against Russia that have severely damaged many Italian companies, as well as bringing to a low point and cracking relations with Moscow that have always been friendly since the days of the Soviet Union. The same goes for the sanctions on Iran. Before this criminal measure, Italy was Tehran’s first trading partner. But even in this case, in order to obey Washington, the country did not hesitate to sabotage its economy.

Now it is China’s turn. Italy was the first Western country to join the large infrastructural and commercial project of the New Silk Road launched by Beijing, which in the meantime continues to import Italian-made goods, decisively supporting an economy severely damaged by the pandemic. Italy had signed 29 agreements with China, both at the government level and between companies, for a value of 2.5 billion euros, but with a potential of 20 billion, becoming the first large Western country to join the project of the New Silk Road. But on Atlantic orders, Rome moves away from Beijing. Mario Draghi said he was ready to review the agreement signed with China dating from the time of the first Conte government.

Win-win cooperation or ideological atlanticism?

But Draghi’s closure of the Chinese project, which seems preparatory to Italy’s exit from the agreement, was followed by an interesting telephone conversation between the foreign ministers of Rome and Beijing. In this regard, the Farnesina stated that the two ministers spoke of bilateral relations, respect for human rights and collaboration in the G20 context.

According to reports from the Chinese side, Foreign Minister Wang said that Beijing appreciates the friendly policies pursued by Italy towards China. Faced with profound changes and adjustments in the international situation, the Chinese minister stated that his country intends to strengthen strategic communication with Italy, consolidate mutual trust, eliminate any form of interference and promote continuous development in the right direction of relations between the two countries. As Wang explains, this will benefit their respective populations and contribute to world development and peace.

The benefits of closer cooperation with China are clear. The numbers speak for themselves and above all they do not lie, unlike the Atlanticist propaganda.

During the first five months of 2021, Wang informs, has trade between China and Italy increased by 50% compared to the same period of the previous year. In this context, Italian exports to China increased by 75% year on year, ranking first among the main European Union (EU) countries. For the Chinese minister, this would have shown the enormous potential and great strength of the effective cooperation between China and Italy. With respect to the future, the Chinese side has declared that the country will open up to a greater level to promote higher quality development and welcome more Italian companies that want to invest in China. At the same time, Beijing hopes that Italy will provide an operating and trading environment that is fair, just and non-discriminatory for the Chinese side.

With Italy, Beijing intends to intensify high-level exchanges, as well as to facilitate those between people and to continue promoting the joint construction of the New Silk Roads. In addition to this, China wants to strengthen cooperation in the fields of scientific and technological innovation, aerospace, clean energy, digital economy and in third markets, promoting mutually beneficial cooperation.

Finally, Wang stressed that, in the face of unprecedented global challenges, every country should encourage cooperation rather than fuel divisions. For China, states should respect each other and not launch political attacks, just as they should assume their responsibilities rather than shirk them. In this regard, Wang said he hopes the EU will promote the stability and long-term development of relations with China and that Italy will play a constructive role in this regard.

“Italy can be the protagonist in this great operation that China cares a lot about: for us it is a great opportunity and my presence here shows how important we consider it”, declared the then Prime Minister in 2017 during a visit to Beijing, the Italian Paolo Gentiloni. The current European Commissioner for the Economy then added: “Historical, geopolitical reasons and the current relations we have with Beijing can help ensure that this opportunity is seized”, underlining that “there are infrastructures to be built together and great opportunities for our ports in the maritime silk road”.

It is quite clear that it would be in Italy’s interest to continue and deepen the win-win cooperation, made up of mutual benefits with China, instead of putting everything into question for the geopolitical needs of the United States, which have designated China as the main enemy.

Atlanticism, like neoliberal Europeanism, has never satisfied Italy’s needs. Continuing on this path, the decline of Rome could become irreversible.

Fabrizio Verde

Journalist and geopolitics analyst.

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September 2023