China’s President Xi Jinping has committed to foster “healthy and stable relations” with Italy, despite the fact that the European country wants to withdraw from his hallmark Belt and Road Initiative.
In a statement to his colleague Sergio Mattarella on Tuesday, Xi stated that he “highly regards the bilateral ties between the nations” and “stands ready to advance the relationship,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Xi’s letter also expressed sympathy for the passing of former President Giorgio Napolitano.
The comments come at a sensitive time for the two nations. Italy has informed China that it intends to exit the investment pact — launched by Xi a decade ago to boost economic ties and expand the influence of the world’s second-biggest economy — just weeks before a summit in Beijing to celebrate the BRI’s anniversary. Italy joined in 2019, the only Group of Seven country to do so.
Like much of Europe, Italy has been caught in the middle of escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing, and that’s been compounded by China’s support for Russia since it invaded Ukraine.
European countries are also struggling to balance a desire to engage with China on trade and investment while pushing back against claims of economic coercion and human rights concerns, as well as risks associated with becoming too dependent on supplies from China.