Conte sucks up to Beijing for Belt and Road forum

Giuseppe Conte and Xi Jinping. Photo credit: Il Messaggero

BEIJING - Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has arrived in China on a State visit set to last three days in which Italy will take part in a forum on the future of the Belt and Road initiative.

 Conte will first meet with representatives at the Italian Embassy, before being welcomed by Chinese president Xi Jinping for a dinner attended by many Heads of Government from countries who have subscribed to the Belt and Road project.

 An assortment of leaders and representatives from over 150 nations will then convene to discuss the 1,000 billion dollar project further.

 Conte will be joined by Vladimir Putin and Pakistani premier Imran Khan, as well as senior officials from fellow European nations.

 Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China in March in which the two nations laid out a future roadmap for their collaboration over China’s modern-day Silk Road.

 The project hope to connect Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East with a cohesive infrastructure network, including bridges, railway lines, and roads.

 Over 100 countries are thought to have signed varying degrees of commitments to the Belt and Road initiative, however the project has continued to draw criticism from many western democracies.

 It is seen by G7 and the European Union as a way for China to extend its control beyond its borders economically and politically.

 Xi Jinping, however, sought to address concerns before the forum started, telling reporters that the project would abide by strict financial standards, improve market regulation, ensure parity between countries, and respect intellectual property.

 He also stated that China would ensure the “commercial and fiscal sustainability” of projects to avoid nations becoming indebted to Beijing.