Continuity and Change in Italy-China Relations: From Economic Pragmatism to Selective Followership and Back

China-US Competition

Italy is generally not a conspicuous actor in world affairs. In 2019, however, the Italian government chose to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation within the framework of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI), thereby stepping right into the middle of what has become a defining feature of the current international system, namely the US-China strategic competition. This chapter focuses on Italy’s domestic politics to argue that Rome used the BRI MoU as a tool to strike a tactical entente with the PRC to leverage Beijing’s resulting goodwill in order to extract the economic concessions that had long eluded Italian policy-makers. Between 2018 and 2019 Italy reacted to the budding “neutrality” vs. “taking sides” dilemma in the post-unipolar order by moving across “sub-zones” within a China policy that remained firmly anchored in the “hedging zone”.

Giovanni B. Andornino (T.wai & University of Turin) is the author of the chapter “Continuity and Change in Italy-China Relations: From Economic Pragmatism to Selective Followership and Back” published in the open-access book “China-US Competition: Impact on Small and Middle Powers’ Strategic Choices” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023, edited by Simona A. Grano and David Wei Feng Huang).

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