Did Italy say it wanted to rejoin China’s Belt and Road Initiative?

Verdict: False
By Zhuang Jing for Asia Fact Check Lab
2024.05.02
Taipei, Taiwan
Did Italy say it wanted to rejoin China’s Belt and Road Initiative?
Illustration by Amanda Weisbrod/RFA; Map by Vemaps.com

A claim emerged in Chinese-language social media posts that Italy wants to rejoin China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which it joined in 2019 and left last year, citing a screenshot of a Bloomberg article.

But the claim is false. The Bloomberg article makes no mention of Italy wanting to rejoin the initiative. Keyword searches found no credible reports or statements that back the claim. 

The claim was shared on the popular Chinese social Weibo on April 15, 2024.

“According to Bloomberg, Italy, which pulled out of the Belt and Road Initiative last year, wants to come back … Italy is desperate and wants back in,” the claim reads in part. 

The claim accompanied a screenshot of what appears to be a Bloomberg article. 

On Dec. 6, 2023, the Italian government announced it will not renew the 2019 memorandum of understanding on its participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. This decision marked Italy’s exit from President Xi Jinping’s flagship diplomatic project.

The signing of the MOU raised concerns in Washington and other European nations, where it was feared to signal a shift in historical alliances, since Italy became the first and only G7 country to join the initiative. 

At that time, many in the West viewed this as an attempt by Beijing to diminish the United States’s global economic dominance.

The BRI, launched in 2013, has positioned China as a significant international lender, funding numerous infrastructure projects primarily in developing countries, which has sparked controversy for both China and the involved nations.

The identical claim was shared on other Chinese social media platforms as seen here, here and here.

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Influencers on Weibo claimed that Italy regretted dropping out of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, attaching a screenshot of a Bloomberg article as evidence. (Screenshot/ Weibo) 

But the claim is false. 

Bloomerg article

A keyword search found the Bloomberg article cited in the misleading posts published on April 12, 2024.

But a close look at the article found that it made no mention of Italy wanting to rejoin the initiative. 

Instead, the article said that the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will soon take a trip to China in order to improve relations with Beijing.

Noting Meloni’s preparations to visit China in an effort to reset relations between the two countries, the article also reported Italian Deputy Prime Minister Antonio Tajani’s meeting with Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao at a bilateral discussion forum on April 12.

“Leaving the Silk Road would not compromise channels with China,” reads a statement released by Italy after the meeting. 

Keywords searches found no credible reports or statements that back the claim. 

Translated by Shen Ke. Edited by Shen Ke, Taejun Kang, Malcolm Foster, and Eugene Whong.

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