In Italy, China is no longer thought of as the origin of COVID-19, but as a friend in a time of dire need.
Italy has been an alluring geopolitical prize throughout the ages because of its strategic location in the middle of the Mediterranean, its wealth, and the useful skills of its people. Now it’s the turn of today’s rising power, China, to seek to extend its influence there.
Last year, Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China on participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Italy was the first and so far the only G-7 country to do so. Laboring under many years of economic stagnation, Italy hoped to bring about a much-needed stimulus to growth thanks to business with China.
The move was sneered at by Italy’s Western allies and was also contentious domestically, with one part of the government coalition of the time (Matteo Salvini’s right-wing Lega) opposing it. At the end of the day, however signing the MoU did not bring Italy more contracts from China compared to other countries that had not done so — for instance, France.