On Wednesday, two sources within the Italian government said that Italy is set to withdraw from China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Fox News reports that, after months of speculation, the first and only major Western nation to join the BRI is now set to exit the initiative. Italy first joined China’s controversial program in 2019, but following the election of a hard-right government in 2022, the future of Italy’s participation was thrown into doubt. All other Western nations have warned that the BRI is simply a plan for China to gain control of Western technologies and infrastructure for itself.
Upon her election, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni publicly expressed her support for Italy’s withdrawal from the program, pointing out that it had produced no benefits for her nation. The deal between Italy and China was set to expire in March of 2024, though it would have automatically renewed unless the Italian government gave a three months’ advanced warning in writing.
According to the government source, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Beijing has been sent a letter “in recent days” from the Italian government informing them of the planned withdrawal.
“We have every intention of maintaining excellent relations with China even if we are no longer part of the Belt and Road Initiative,” said the second government source. “Other G7 nations have closer relations with China than we do, despite the fact they were never in (the BRI).”
Meloni, the head of the Brothers of Italy party, became Prime Minister after her right-wing coalition won 237 seats in last year’s election, with her party becoming the largest in the coalition. Other parties in the ruling government include Matteo Salvini’s Lega (formerly Lega Nord), and the late Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia. Meloni is the first woman to serve as Prime Minister of Italy.