Belt and Road Initiative


New Silk Road is the expression coined by the Italian press to talk about the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), an ambitious program of the Chinese government that wants to finance with over 1, 000 billion dollars various infrastructure investments in almost every corner of the planet: Africa, Europe, India, Russia, Indonesia. The initiative, strongly supported by Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China, was launched in 2013.

From a concrete point of view the Belt and Road Initiative is a set of projects paid by the Beijing government and aimed at the realization or strengthening of commercial infrastructures - roads, ports, bridges, railways, airports - and plants for the production and distribution of energy and for communication systems. All this to facilitate and further boost trade and commercial relations between Chinese companies and the rest of the world: a sort of global plan (in the true sense of the word) of businesses that - according to the World Bank (WB, World Bank) - could reach a third of all world trade and involve 60% of the planet's population.

A plan that, without any fuss, has been in progress for some time, as a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) published in February, according to which at the end of 2018 the Chinese government had already financed 173 major works related to the BIS in 45 countries.

Such as the acquisition, in 2016, by the Chinese company Cosco, of 51% of the company that manages the Greek port of Piraeus: in fact, this means that for almost three years one of the most important ports in the Mediterranean has been controlled by a team that reports directly to the Beijing government.

Another example is the $ 60 billion in non-repayable loans or super subsidized rates insured by Xi Jinping himself last year to the 50 African heads of state gathered on the occasion of the third Forum on China-Africa Cooperation: just to have a deadline of comparison, the Italian economic maneuver for 2019 is worth about 42 million dollars.

The six pillars. Describing the BIS in detail is almost impossible. As far as we can see, Beijing does not do much to guarantee the transparency of the initiative - starting with the official website for the initiative, which is much more "marketing" than informative. In summary, the Belt and Road Initiative would see, from China, six large commercial corridors:

# the one with Pakistan (Cpec);

# what passes through India, Bangladesh and Myanmar (Bcimec);

# the one that unites Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan (Cwaec);

# the one involving Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Myanmar and Vietnam (Cicpec);

# what links Beijing with Russia and Mongolia (Cmrec);

# what guarantees outlets in Europe (Nelb).

China, Silk Road, Belt and Road Initiative The commercial corridors that will make up the Belt and Road Initiative, the so-called New Silk Road. | World Bank

The Silk Road passes through the Triveneto area. In the idea of ​​Beijing, the BIS should also pass through our country, through the financing of major road and railway works, with the strengthening of connections with China by sea and by sky and with the injection of Chinese capital in key sectors such as that of energy.

Targeted by the Chinese there would be the port of Trieste, a cooperation in the energy sector between Terna and the State Grid Corporation of China and no better specified collaborations between eastern public and private companies and large European projects such as the TAV.

Europe demands attention. A few days ago the President of the Council, Giuseppe Conte, declared that Italy could officially join the Belt and Road Initiative, thus becoming the first Country of the Group of 7 (G7: France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, USA, Canada) to openly side with Beijing. Conte said a BIS memorandum of understanding will be signed on the occasion of Xi Jinping's visit to Italy (March 21-23).

At the international level, several countries, headed by Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, have openly declared that they are not in favor of the BIS and the European Union itself has asked Italy for prudence on the content of the agreements that it is about to sign. This is because (analysts say) the risk is that the economic center of gravity of our country and of the whole of Europe will shift from the western axis towards an eastern and Chinese axis and that China will acquire, if not control, significant areas of influence in sectors considered strategic for the economy and national security.

Antonio Tajani, President of the European Parliament, in a meeting organized by the Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE) in New York with representatives of Italian companies active in the United States, has repeatedly stressed that China is a commercial adversary and that Europe and the United States should join forces by putting in place common strategies aimed at protecting their respective economic interests.