Italy has a government coalition led by the Five Star Movement, an extremely pro-Chinese party, whose founder Beppe Grillo has been spotted frequently at the Chinese embassy in Rome. As the European Council on Foreign Relations reported, “in Italy business and political lobbies for China have been on the rise”. The former PM Matteo Renzi has visited Beijing for conferences.
Five years ago, China National Chemical Corp bought Pirelli, a 143-year-old Italian company, and the world’s fifth-largest tire maker. A study published by KPMG before the Pirelli deal revealed Chinese acquisitions in Italy have totaled 10 billion euros in five years (in a total of 13 billion euros investments). A third of foreign purchases in Italy are Chinese. The goal is to turn Italy into “Europe’s top destination for highly coveted investment from China”.
Now, China is trying to dominate southern Europe’s infrastructure. China was already granted a license to run Greece’s largest seaport, Athens’ Piraeus harbor, which Beijing plans to turn into Europe’s biggest commercial harbor. Then China started to project its expansion in Italy’s ports, where four major ports are also in line for Chinese investments. Zeno D’Agostino, the president of Trieste’s northern port, says that “China is opening because it feels strong”.
China has been able to brainwash Italian public opinion. In a poll published April 17, 50% of Italians consider China a “friend” (just 17% of Italians think as much of the United States). And in the race for the global power to which Italy should be allied China is ahead of the US, 36% to 30%.