Sri Lanka, which has been used by the China-bashing mob as the primary example of China’s evil “debt trap” diplomacy, doesn’t seem to have gotten the message. Instead, they continue to look to China as a leading source of funds and technical support to develop their country.
The Sri Lankan government on April 8 opened a new railroad connecting two southern cities, Matara and Beliatta, financed by the Export-Import Bank of China and constructed by China Railway Group 5 (CR5) and Sri Lanka’s Central Engineering Consultancy Bureau (CECB). The 26.75-km long railway was proudly declared open for the public by Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga in the presence of Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera and other parliamentarians.
This is the first railroad to be built in Sri Lanka since 1948, the year of their independence from the British! It includes the longest and second longest railway bridges of 1.5 km and 1.04 km, respectively, and the longest railway tunnel and the most modern railway station buildings in the country.
Debt trap? In spite of all the talk about Sri Lanka’s Chinese “debt trap” in the Western media, which EIR showed was a complete hoax (see: Why China’s ‘Debtbook Diplomacy’ is a Hoax), Sri Lanka and China continue to cooperate around new infrastructure projects, like this railway. How could a poor country, burdened with IMF and World Bank debt, come out of this trap and end its poverty without modern infrastructure (transport, power, water management, education and healthcare)? This should be self-evident for any American, German, Swede or Frenchman who knows anything about their country’s history. Forward with the Belt and Road!
Former President of the Philippines and nowSpeaker of the Philippines Assembly Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,speaking at the March 26-29 annual Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) atHainan, said:
“China has given us the lesson that there is justnot one path for development, because prior to China’sexperience, it was thought that the only way to development isthe Western-style model of Jeffersonian democracy and coupledwith a free market,”
the Manila Bulletin reported yesterday. It wasat the same conference that Arroyo said that China is a partner,not a threat to the Philippines, despite the apprehensions ofsome about China’s involvement in development projects in thecountry. Arroyo, now in her second year as a board member of theBFA, said that developing countries such as the Philippinesshould further boost their relationship with China, GMA NewsOnline reported.
“But China has shown the world that you can have your ownmodel of development using your own historical experience,especially China in the last 40 years. Since the opening of China40 years ago, it has transformed itself, it is the world’sleading growth, unmatched in history, 400 million [sic—800million] people lifted out from poverty. China is on the verge ofbecoming the largest economy in the world,” she said.
Arroyo said she had a “valuable” meeting with ChinesePremier Li Keqiang, along with other officers of the Boao Forumfor Asia. She said that their discussion with Li centered on thedirection China is taking in its 40th year of reforms and itsties with the rest of the world. The Bulletin reported thatLi’s meeting with the BFA officers was one of the highlights ofthe BFA Annual Conference 2019.
Italy and China have signed the famousMemorandum of Understanding on Belt and Road cooperation Friday,together with 10 economic agreements and 18 institutionalagreements (19 with the BRI MOU). The MOU is a milestone and is said to already bebeing studied by other countries that want to follow Italy.
The MOU says at the outset that
“The Parties will worktogether within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to translatemutual complementary strengths into advantages for practicalcooperation and sustainable growth, supporting synergies betweenthe Belt and Road Initiative and priorities identified in theInvestment Plan for Europe and the Trans-European Networks,bearing in mind discussions in the EU China ConnectivityPlatform.”
With the MOU, Italy is the first large industrial economy tojoin the Belt and Road, as Chinese media proudly stress. Thesignature of the MOU occurred in spite of trans-Atlanticpressures and open hostility by Italy’s “partners” in the EU.Italian Minister for Economic Development Luigi Di Maio, whosigned the MOU together with his counterpart He Lifeng, chairmanof the National Development and Reform Commission, stated that
“today is for us a very important day, in which the Made in Italyis winning, Italian firms are winning. We made a step to help oureconomy to grow. Italy came first with China.”
The economic agreements include: a strategic partnershipbetween the Italian Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and the Bank ofChina to finance Italian firms in China; a MOU between theItalian oil company ENI and the Bank of China for explorations inChina; Ansaldo Energia signed two agreements, one to develop gasturbines with UGTC and another one for the supply of a turbine toShanghai Electric and Benxi Steel; the Port Authorities ofTrieste and Genoa signed an agreement with the construction giantCCCC. Cassa Depositi and the natural gas utility Snam signed adeal with the Silk Road Fund for investments along the Silk Road;the Institute for Foreign Trade signed a deal with Suning tocreate a platform to promote Italian lifestyle in China; and theDanieli group signed a contract with China Camc Engineering forthe construction of a steel plant in Azerbaijan.
The institutional agreements, besides the MOU on the BRIcooperation, include cooperation on innovative startups andelectronic trade, as well as cooperation between the two spaceagencies, agriculture and culture, health and media.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella told the business leaders that, once again, there is a “culture of growth.” He said, “we can have confidence in both countries” that there will be development. The Memorandum of Understanding has been worked on since last September, and the cooperation between Italy and China will not only facilitate our own development, but will “enable global growth.” He said that ‘the globalized world needs more consultations” between nations, in all areas, especially trade, space and culture.
In an interview with Chinesejournalists, Italian President Mattarella spoke at lengthabout the ancient bonds between Italy and China and the futureperspective for cooperation. This year marks the 15th anniversaryof the comprehensive strategic partnership between the twocountries, and this partnership is “built on solid foundations,inspired by natural convergences between two very ancientcivilizations,” Mattarella was quoted by Xinhua.
Mattarella underscored the “growing and fruitful interactionbetween our peoples, who are so similar in terms ofindustriousness and creativity.”
Xi’s visit is an expression of the “solidity of the bond andthe mutual respect” between Italy and China, he said.
After some lip service to transparency and openness,Mattarella said that on the cultural front, the heritage of bothItaly and China “arouses admiration everywhere in the world,” andthis heritage could be a great development driver. He referred tothe mechanism of forging twinning relationships between the twocountries’ World Heritage Sites.
Speaking of how the Italy-China partnership contributes to abetter and more stable world, the President said that Italy iscommitted to safeguarding peace and rules-based multilateralism,and is pleased to see the two sides have consensus on that.
The Italian press agency ANSA reported that Mattarellaexpressed the wish that, with the visit of President Xi,“agreements, ideas, projects can come out, in which theItalian-Chinese partnership could develop further, including fora larger benefit of the collaboration between Europe and Asia,which needs an ever bigger volume of sustainable investments ininfrastructure, to ensure a future of well-being and peace forall peoples of the two continents.”
In the foreign policy debate in the Chamberof Deputies Tuesday morning, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Contejudoed all critics of the upcoming agreement between Italy andChina on the Belt and Road by describing the upcoming MOU as sopro-European that it complies with EU guidelines and principlesand values as “nobody has so far done in Europe.”
Conte said that the EU “will be strengthened by the Italianapproach.” The MOU is not a treaty but a “programmatic agreementoutlining targets in the framework of the BRI, which is a largeproject of international connectivity that Italy has expressedinterest for, already back in 2016.” Italy’s interest “islegitimate” and responds to its “national interests.” Italy wantsto increase its export in a “market of giant dimensions,”increase investments in infrastructures and “enjoy the naturaleconomic advantages of the New Silk Road.”
The negotiations for the MOU have lasted many months and thetext is “fully in line with the EU strategy.” Furthermore:“Nobody in the EU has done as much as we have” to advance EUpolicy vis-à-vis China. The MOU promotes European principles ofmutual advantages, reciprocity, intellectual property, levelplaying field, etc. “Our approach to the BRI is the mostfar-sighted and effective ever adopted in the EU.”
In his reply, after a debate in which the oppositiondistinguished itself in hysteria, infantilism and incompetence,Conte reiterated the “finalities” of the MOU with China: “First,balance trade relations. Our exports to China are far behindexports of our partners in the EU. Second, the BRI is a bigproject of infrastructure connectivity which offers opportunitiesto our companies. We have leading companies in know-how andtechnology which will be able to participate. Third, the BRI isof such a significance as to redefine major trade routes and wedon’t want to miss any chance to be part of them. Fourth,protecting our strategic infrastructure is a primary,non-negotiable objective.”
President Juan Carlos Varela presided over a ceremony Friday for the release of China Railway Design Corporation’s feasibility study on the Panama City-David high-speed railway line agreed upon as part of Panama’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative. The study found that building the proposed 391.3 km railway from the capital to David, a city near the Costa Rican border, is economically and, as the President emphasized, socially viable—and that it is feasible to extend it into Central America.
The railroad will provide “unprecedented integration of the country, and will empower the country’s logistical platform,” Varela said at the ceremony. The study took into consideration its future extension into Costa Rica, which would “facilitate trade of products between our [Central American] countries, which face great challenges in the area of logistics,” he stressed.
“Such a railway has been the dream of Panamanian leaders for 100 years, and therefore I hope that future leaders will take it up and make it a reality, always thinking of Panama first,” Varela added.
Panama will elect a new President on May 5, and Varela had previously announced that it will be up to his successor to undertake the project. By ensuring the feasibility study was released with proper promotion now, Varela is placing Panama’s participation in the Belt and Road, with the great potential it represents for transforming the country’s poorer regions, at the center of that campaign. (He cannot run again because of term limits.)
The CRDC, assisted by Panamanian government agencies, universities and private consulting companies, estimates that it will take six years to complete the railway, at a cost of $4.1 billion, involving 6,000 employees, direct and indirect, to build it, and 2,900 to operate and maintain it once built.
Interviews with Helga Zepp-LaRouche and Jacques Cheminade appeared on a newscast by CCTV-13 reporting on U.S. reactions to the just-concluded National People’s Congress. CCTV journalist Wang Guang reported on the reaction of U.S. think tanks to the ideas presented during the Two Sessions with regard to U.S.-China trade and the Belt and Road Initiative.
“I personally think it is the most important strategic initiative, because it is a concept with which you can overcome geopolitics. Geopolitics has been the cause of two wars in the 20th Century, and the idea that you can not have blocs of countries or nations against nations, but that you have what Xi Jinping always calls the ‘community of the shared future of humanity,’ that you put the one humanity first, is a strategic concept which allows you to overcome the divisions which existed in previous centuries.”
This was followed by Cheminade, who said,
“The Chinese way is to a world integration through common development, what President Xi Jinping calls a ‘win-win’ system. So that is a future. The Chinese want a world development. They don’t want to impose their model, but they don’t want the other models to impose upon them.”
The ongoing battle between two paradigms was center stage in Italy this week, as the conference cosponsored by Movisol and the Lombard Region, demonstrated the potential for the Belt-and-Road Initiative (BRI) to break the power of the London-run geopoliticians in Europe. Helga Zepp LaRouche’s report on the conference, at which she spoke, and was joined by Michele Geracci, an Undersecretary of the Italian Finance Ministry and head of the government’s China Task Force, highlighted the significance of the upcoming trip of Xi Jinping to Italy, and the signing on an MOU for Italy to join the BRI. If Italy and fifteen other EU member nations can participate, for mutual benefit, with the BRI, what of France and Germany? Why are the EU bureaucrats and the London neo-liberals so distressed by this development?
Contrast this potential to the hysteria coming from EU bureaucrats, from NATO officials such as Gen. Scaparroti, and from U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo, which is part of a neocon contingent trying to rein Trump in. Helga presents a clear picture of how the neocons are moving, aiming at sabotaging the trade talks with China, denuclearization of North Korea, and pushing for regime change in Venezuela, to force Trump to move away from his campaign promises.
She appealed to viewers to use the mobilization to exonerate Lyndon LaRouche as a means of bringing down the war party, which is continuing its efforts to destroy the potential of the Trump presidency.
The conference “Italy on the New Silk Road” organized byMovisol (LaRouche’s movement in Italy) and the Lombardy Region(state legislature) in Milan Wednesday, was a success, withUndersecretary Michele Geraci (of the Task Force China in theItalian government) opening it and emphasizing the importance ofthe MOU which Italy will sign with President Xi Jinping on March22 in Rome, of the benefits for Italy of this cooperation withChina, including for the development of the Italian Mezzogiorno.
Undersecretary of the Task Force China in the Italian government, Michele Geraci and EIR’s Claudio Celani.
Geraci was followed by Helga Zepp-LaRouche, who explainedthe more profound meaning of this important development for therest of the world, the realization of the New Paradigm for whichLyndon LaRouche and the Schiller Institute have been working forthe last 30 years. See a full text of Helga’s remarks below.
There was a short message from Sen. Tony Iwobi, the firstNigerian parliamentarian elected for the Lega, about thehistorical significance on the Transaqua project, which was thendescribed in detail by Engineer Bocchetto of Bonifica, which isworking on the feasibility study with China.
Geraci, Celani, Zepp-LaRouche and Movisol leader, Liliana Gorini.
Liliana Gorini, chairwoman of Movisol, concluded theconference by thanking the Lombardy Region, which had helped toorganize it, and dedicating it to Lyndon LaRouche, who is knownin Italy not only as the “visionary” of the New Silk Road, asformer Economics Minister Giulio Tremonti defined him Tuesday in Corriere della Sera, but also as the main promoter ofGlass-Steagall and LaRouche’s Four Laws, and reminding people howmany parliamentarians who had heard him speak at the ItalianFinance Committee at the Parliament in Rome in 1998, admittedyears later that he was completely right.
TRANSCRIPT OF HELGA ZEPP-LAROUCHE’S REMARKS
ZEPP-LAROUCHE: It is in one sense quite amusing to seewhat high waves the possibility of Italy signing the MOU withChina is causing right now. Because, when Xi Jinping announcedthe New Silk Road in 2013 and then proceeded to make treaties inthe meantime, I think it’s with 112 countries, an enormous growthdeveloped, six major industrial corridors, the Belt and RoadInitiative became very quickly the largest infrastructure projectin history, ever. And the strange thing was that for about fouryears, in the mainstream media in the United States and Europe,there was practically no reporting about this.
And then, all of a sudden, in an obviously coordinated way,the major think tanks of Europe and the United States started aseries of attacks, studies, that China is causing countries tofall into a debt trap, that it’s just an effort to replace theUnited States as the dominant force in the world, to becomeChinese imperialists, that the Belt and Road projects are notviable, that China is an authoritarian system and Xi Jinping is adictator. So all of a sudden, you had a barrage of attacks onthis concept.
The funny thing is, if you would ask and listen to theleaders of the countries cooperating with the Belt and Road, likethe Africans, the Asian countries, the Latin American countries,they would be full of praise and say that with the Chinesecooperation, they have for the first time, the opportunity toovercome the underdevelopment and poverty they had suffered as aresult of Western colonialism, and 70 years of IMFconditionalities, which prevented them from having exactly thatkind of development. And they were full of praise, calling Chinaa friend — so you get a completely opposite view.
I have come to the conclusion that everything in the Westernmainstream media are saying about China is fake news, and just alie. And it comes from the fact that many people in the Westsimply have lost the ability to imagine that any country, letalone China, could promote something which is, indeed, for thecommon good of all of humanity. When Xi Jinping talks about the“shared community of the common future of mankind,” or the“community of destiny,” he means it! And isn’t it obvious thatin the time of thermonuclear weapons, in international spacetravel, of conquering all the problems of the world, that we haveto think about the one humanity first, before we talk aboutnational interests? As a matter of fact, the concept of a win-wincooperation for the Belt and Road Initiative, it has all theeconomic aspects which are beneficial to all the countries thathave participated.
But it is much more than that: Because from the standpointof the evolution of mankind, if you take a step back, and don’ttake a look at the conflict between Marseille and Trieste, whichI understand is obviously very important for the Italians, but ifyou look at the larger point of view, isn’t it natural thatinfrastructure development would eventually open up allcontinents and connect them?
So now, all of a sudden, you have this eruption ofanti-China propaganda, but it comes from the fact that we are nowat a point where something is happening, which has alreadyhappened 16 times in history, namely, that the up-to-now dominantpower is being surpassed by the up-to-now second largest power.And in history this has led 12 times to war, between those twocompeting power, and 4 times it was just that the second powersurpassed the dominant power without war. China has emphasizedmany times, they don’t want, obviously, to follow the 12 exampleswhere this conflict would lead to war, but they also don’t wantto simply replace the United States in the role of the leader ofan unipolar world, but that they want to build a completely newsystem of international relations based on sovereignty, onrespect for the different social system, on non-interference, andactually proposing a completely new system of internationalrelations.
So, the big question strategically is you have the conflictbetween the United States and Russia, which is obvious, becauseof the cancellation of the ABM Treaty, then the Russian reactionto that, and now the cancellation of the INF Treaty — so thereare many who think that we are actually close, in worse strategiccrisis than during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis,because of the relations between the United States and Russia.But if you talk to some strategic insiders on both sides of theAtlantic, they easily admit that the much more dangerous conflictis actually the one between the United States and China: Willthe United States accept the rise of Asia, and the Belt and RoadInitiative is just the obvious expression of that? Or, is whatwas said by the RAND Corporation a couple of months ago, thatit’s better to have the war with China now, than in 10 years,because the casualties will be less?
Well, obviously, this is something we have to change, and Ithink that the best way to change it is, indeed, to bring in thisreality of a new paradigm of thinking altogether: We have toleave geopolitics. We have to leave the idea that there can be alegitimate interest of one country, or a group of country,against another bloc of countries, because this was what ledtwice to world war in the 20th century. As a matter of fact, Ithink the potential to overcome this conflict is absolutelythere. I know in Europe, many people are fainting when youmention the name of President Donald Trump, but President Trumpis not seeking confrontation with Russia — as a matter of fact,he wants to have an improved relation with Russia, which heproved in the summit with Putin in Helsinki. And despite thepresent trade tension, President Trump always talks aboutPresident Xi Jinping as his very good friend, and China being agreat country and that he wants to actually have a goodrelationship between the United States and China.
So the attacks on Italy, coming from the White House — the[i]Financial Times[/i] mentioned this Garrett Marquis — is notrepresenting the same view as Trump. It comes from a faction ofthe neo-con which are unfortunately also in the TrumpAdministration, but the factional situation in the United Statesis very divided. You have the Democrats and the neo-cons tryingto get Trump out of office with Russiagate, but on the otherside, I think President Trump has proven a tremendoussustainability against the efforts to drive him out of office,and his supporters are absolutely backing him, and the chancesthat there will be a second Trump Administration are actuallyvery, very high.
Now one of the accusations against China and the Belt andRoad Initiative is that it would divide Europe. I thinkeverybody knows Europe is divided already, without China: Youhave the North-South conflict because of the EU austerity policy,which impoverished, Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, gave nodevelopment to the East European countries, so they are now happyto cooperate with the Belt and Road initiative, because the EUdid not provide these things. Now, the second area of divisionis obviously the migrant issue, where you have the divisionbetween East and West — the East European countries do not wantto have any part of the proposed quota system of the EU.
Now, what Italy is actually doing in this context is reallya role model, because the kind of cooperation between Italianfirms and Chinese firms in the development of Africa is actuallythe only human way to address the refugee question.
So you have right now 13 countries which have already signedthe MOU with China; you have, now with Italy, the first G7country (which is really overrated, because the G7 is no longerthat important as compared to the G20, for example). And youhave many ports — Mr. Geraci said, if actually all the ports ofEurope which are already wanting to be a hub between not only theNew Silk Road over the land route, but also hubs to the MaritimeSilk Road, Portugal and Spain becoming the hub for all theSpanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries around the world. Sothere is a completely changed attitude developing very quickly.
Now, also even in Germany and France, the two countrieswhich are now trying to put the brakes on the most, apart fromthe EU Commission, there are many cities which are absolutelyrecognizing their self-interest to cooperate with the Belt andRoad Initiative. You have three states in Germany —Schleswig-Holstein, Bavaria, and Brandenburg — which all thetime have huge delegations back and forth; you have many citieswhose mayors are complete fans of cooperation with China, and itis an increasing dynamic, which is growing more rapidly than youwould think.
So, if you would ask my prognosis, I think the perspectiveof unifying Europe, not necessarily under the EU bureaucracy, butin the conception of de Gaulle, more like a “Europe of theFatherlands” uniting with China, with Russia, with the Belt andRoad Initiative, the Eurasian Economic Union [EAEU], and Europeancountries, to cooperate fully in this new paradigm is absolutelythere.
Well, I think that that is also the only way how Europe canimpact the strategic situation: Because if you had a unitedEurope of the Fatherlands cooperating with the Belt and RoadInitiative, including Germany and France, that would be the bestway to get the United States to also give up their opposition —which I said, is not Trump himself, but these other forces — andget the United States to join the new paradigm. And I think thisis the [i]only[/i] hope we have to avoid a catastrophe where we wouldend in World War III with nuclear weapons, meaning the extinctionof civilization. So in that sense, what Italy is doing right now,is of the greatest historical importance, because Italy, withwhat you are doing, with the MOU but also with the joint ventureswith China in Africa, can become the role model for all the otherEuropean countries.
But the New Silk Road is not just an economic concept.Obviously, infrastructure, investment, all of this is extremelyimportant, as the backbone, but it has a much more, and not sowell-known cultural/moral dimension, which I think is bestexpressed in the fact that the Chinese thinking is actually basedon the Confucian theory, namely, that you absolutely must haveharmony among all the nations, developing all in a harmoniousway. And when some think tanks say that there is now acompetition of systems between the Western liberal model and thestate-guided model of the Chinese state economy, well, what theyreally mean is, China has developed its whole policy based on aConfucian orientation, which means that the state is also incharge of the moral improvement of its population through theaesthetical education. As a matter of fact, Xi Jinping has saidrepeatedly, that he puts the highest emphasis on the aestheticaleducation, because the result of this is the “beauty of the mind”and the “beauty of the soul.”
So the problem is, the reason why some people in the Westregard that as a competition, is because Western neo-liberal andliberal philosophy has moved away from that conception: We areno longer humanists. We are no longer thinking as during theItalian Renaissance or the German Classical period, but we havereplaced that with a liberal thinking of “everything is allowed,”every degenerate form of culture is allowed, everything goes — Idon’t want to elaborate that, but if you look at the violence,the pornography in the entertainment, we don’t have to worry. Wewill lose that competition of the systems, simply because we arenot taking care of our future generations, but allowing them tocompletely morally decay.
And that is why I think that we have to understand that theonly way how Europe can persist in the coming future is notthrough military power — what Mr. Macron is proposing isridiculous — but we will preserve our European culture [i]only[/i] ifwe return to the greatest tradition of our own history, meaningreviving the spirit and the ideas and principles of the ItalianRenaissance, of the Ecole Polytechnique of France, of the GermanClassical music, literature, and poetry. Only if we rise againto our best traditions can we persist in the coming world.
So I think that the cultural dimension of the New Silk Roadis as important, if not more important, than the question ofeconomics.
I would be happy to take any questions. Thank you.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave a pressconference on March 9, in which he presented China’s plans forthe upcoming second Belt and Road Forum for InternationalCooperation, or BRF. He said that it was China’s most importantdiplomatic activity of the year, and that President Xi Jinpingwill deliver the keynote address.
According to Xinhua, Wang said the event,
“will have moreforeign heads of state and government than the previous forum[two years ago] and thousands of delegates from over a hundredcountries are expected to attend. It will include a series ofevents, such as leaders’ round table, high-level meeting,thematic forum, CEO conference, under the theme of Belt and Roadcooperation shaping a brighter shared future.”
Wang also stated that,
“China will build consensus withparties on high-quality cooperation following the principle ofconsultation, cooperation and shared benefits; champion an open,transparent and inclusive approach to Belt and Road cooperation,and strive for green and sustainable development. Meanwhile,China and the participating countries will seek a greatercomplementarity between the BRI and their developmentstrategies.”
He concluded: “We have reasons to hope and believe thesecond BRF will be a greater success,” than the first one.
The Italian government has just announced it’s intention to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to join the Belt and Road Initiative with China when President Xi Jinping visits Italy on March 22-23. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, speaking at an event in Genoa March 8th declared,
“The Silk Road, is a major project of infrastructural connectivity which offers a large availability by China to promote a trade exchange and not only that. I believe that, with all necessary caution, this can be an opportunity, a chance for our country. It is an opportunity for our country system and for Europe in general.”
Conte also said he promised to attend to the second Belt and Road Forum on International Cooperation in Beijing at the end of April. As for their U.S. ally,
“we have explained that this is for us a choice of economic and trade relationships. The fact that we are comfortably in the Atlantic Alliance and in the European system does not prevent us from making economic and trade choices that allow us to have more opportunities.”
This wonderful news of international cooperation in major infrastructure projects, as well as joint projects in Africa, was greeted with absolute horror by the Financial Times, the voice of the City of London, and by Garrett Marquis, a member of the US National Security Council under John Bolton. The FT rants that China is building a “Trojan Horse” in Eastern and Central Europe to divide and undermine the EU, ordering Italy to cease and desist. The FT quotes Marquis that he and his neocon associates believe the BRI to be “made in China, for China,” and that it will not bring any “sustained economic benefit to the Italian people, and it may end up harming Italy’s global reputation in the long run.”
The Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to the attack on Italy’s plan to join the Belt and Road by Garrett Marquis, a long-time ally of National Security Adviser John Bolton (who brought him onto the National Security Council). An unsigned editorial in Global Times, titled: “White House’s Criticism of Italy’s Plan To Join BRI Ridiculous,” reports that Lu Kang, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a routine press conference today, said: “Italy, as a major country and economy in the world, is clear about its interests. It could make its own policies and decisions.” Global Times added:
“The BRI is an important international public good that China contributes to global cooperation for common development. China and more than 150 countries and international organizations have signed BRI cooperation agreements, which witnessed more than $6 trillion in cumulative trade between China and participating countries, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said at the 55th Munich Security Conference in February, the Xinhua News Agency reported.”
The FT goes on to allege that,
“Italy’s support for China’s BRI initiative would undercut U.S. pressure on China over trade and would undermine Brussels’ efforts to overcome divisions within the EU over the best approach to deal with Chinese investments. Italy is a founding member of the EU.”
In an interview with the Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, Italian Undersecretary to the Economic Development Ministry rejects criticism raised by the City of London’s Financial Times and defends Italy’s sovereign choice to join the Belt and Road. “Sincerely, I am a bit surprised. I do not understand what it is, that is controversial,” Geraci said. “I confirm what I said in an interview with this newspaper last Feb. 21st. I said the same thing to the Financial Times: We work every day down to the last detail.
“It will be a framework agreement: Just the indication of some strategic sectors in which joint investments are promoted and orders by Italian firms are accelerated. We work on infrastructure, transport and highways, trade, industry, green economy. It will be up to private companies to choose whether to participate or not. If they do it, they will have guarantees in terms of protection from disputes and questions about rules.”
As for the U.S. position, Geraci stated:
“I wonder where such a big concern comes from. We will protect our know-how thanks to a ‘golden power’ rule we have in Italy, which is among the strictest in Europe. And we just fulfill demands from our companies to create for them more room in the most promising markets, such as China. Anyway, we have supplied the United States, as per normal exchanges we have with our main diplomatic partners, all insurances on the issue.”
On the concern about Italy being the first G7 country to sign a New Silk Road protocol, Geraci replied:
“So what? Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Greece have done it and I do not consider them second-class countries in Europe. Those who think differently do not have a real European view. And the G7 club may be a somewhat outdated concept: It no longer represents the real world economic powers, since it does not include either China or India.”
Italy is not “selling out” its ports, as some have claimed, he countered:
“We do not sell, at most we give concessions to create greenfield investments, which means starting from zero. You cannot sell out things that were not there in the first place.”