When then-Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte signed up for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2019, Italy became the only G7 country to become a BRI member. Then-White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis responded to the news by saying that Italy should not be legitimizing “China’s infrastructure vanity project.”
The BRI is no vanity project, and it is a dangerous mistake to underestimate it. While flawed, it is an audacious, innovative and effective mechanism for promoting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) attempt to subvert the established international world order.
The BRI has been called the New Silk Road. It has also been dubbed “globalization with Chinese characteristics.” It consists of two railroad routes extending from China through Asia into Europe, one via Russia, Belarus and Poland, the other taking in Central Asia, Iran and Turkey. There is also a maritime route between China and the Mediterranean via the Indian Ocean and the Suez Canal, as well as air freight routes between China and Europe. The BRI brings together 44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, 35 in Europe and Central Asia, and 25 in East Asia and the Pacific region.
Essentially, the core concept of the BRI is to provide investment in infrastructure projects in participating countries to fabricate a sprawling trade and supply chain network that ostensibly benefits those countries, but ultimately consolidates centralized control of the entire network in Beijing.
Just as it is a mistake to disregard the scale and audacity of the BRI, it is a mistake to regard it as simply being about trade. More importantly, it is about enhancing China’s power and influence throughout the globe, not only by controlling the supply chains, and conjuring up trade and an export destination for China’s construction sector surplus capacity, but also by promoting loyalties among member countries and thereby providing an alternative to the US’ global influence and the narrative of how the world can most effectively be ordered.
Beijing recognizes that the US’ strength derives from its network of alliances. It wants to play the US at its own game, and must have been delighted at getting a G7 member EU country on board, because of the opportunity it presented to drive a wedge between Washington and the EU. Italy’s decision to join in 2019 was significant enough for Xi to make the trip to Rome and deliver a speech to mark the event.
However, Italy’s experience with the BRI has not been entirely positive. Chinese exports to Italy have soared, but there has only been a very modest increase in Italian exports to China since 2019.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has said that her government is considering withdrawing from the BRI, and that she would make a decision by December.
Washington would be happy if she removes the country from the initiative. This would not be because of the trade aspect; it would be because of the geopolitical implications of the withdrawal.
Meloni’s December deadline is part of the original agreement: Italy’s membership is due to automatically renew in March next year, unless Rome officially declares its intention to withdraw, at which time it can renegotiate the terms. Everything she has said before suggests she is serious about leaving.
In an interview published on Sunday in the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Italian Minister of Defense Guido Crosetto described Conte’s decision to join the BRI as “improvised and atrocious.” It is telling that it was the country’s defense minister making the comment.
Taipei would also be relieved if Meloni pulls Italy out: With all the progress made recently with internationalizing the Taiwan Strait issue and improving ties with EU countries, having Beijing controlling supply chains into the center of Europe is cause for concern.
China has started to call Tibet “Xizang” instead of Tibet for several reasons. First, China wants to assert its sovereignty and legitimacy over Tibet, which it claims as an integral part of its territory and history. China argues that the term Xizang, which means “western Tsang” in Chinese, reflects the historical and administrative reality of the region, which was divided into U-Tsang, Amdo and Kham by the Tibetans themselves. China also contends that the term Tibet, which derives from the Mongolian word Tubet, is a foreign imposition that does not represent the diversity and complexity of the region. Second, China wants to
Taiwan has a very important decision to make in the upcoming presidential election. One party stands for protecting the integrity of Taiwanese self-rule, the other two main parties who stand a chance at winning both cater to China and, if elected, would risk locking Taiwan into a position of being annexed by China against the will of a vast majority of the population. Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) presidential candidate, and the KMT all need a history lesson. Taiwan was never ceded to the Republic of China (ROC). The
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) had engaged in weeks of political horse-trading between high-ranking officials, hoping to form a joint ticket to win January’s presidential election, but it all ended in a dramatic public falling out on live television on Thursday. The farcical performance involving mudslinging and quarrels among three men — the TPP’s candidate and Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), the KMT’s candidate, New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜), and Hon Hai Precision Industry Co founder Terry Gou (郭台銘), an independent — and their aides in the evening before the official candidate registration deadline
Due in large part to the US-China trade war, Taiwanese supply chains continue to relocate from China and some manufacturers have increased the rate at which they have invested in Mexico to align their operations with the needs of customers and to comply with US policy. However, setting up manufacturing plants in Mexico is not without its complications, including the language barrier, different cultures, local regulations and finding qualified staff. Accumulating talent with proficiency in Spanish is the first step to developing the market in Mexico, and indeed Latin America as a whole. WHY MEXICO Mexico is a good location for three