Chinese president to visit Italy as Rome backs 'Silk Road' deal

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Chinese president to visit Italy as Rome backs 'Silk Road' deal
China's President Xi Jinping hosts an Italian delegation in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Wu Hong/EPA Pool/AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping will travel to Italy, Monaco and France this week, the foreign ministry said on Monday, with Rome expected to join his global trade infrastructure programme despite reservations in other European countries.


Xi will pay state visits from Thursday to March 26th, according to the foreign ministry.

An Italian official said last week Rome would sign a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Beijing to officially support Xi's massive $1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as the New Silk Road. 

Beijing has financed infrastructure, maritime, rail and road projects in Asia, Africa and Europe, but critics warn that it mainly benefits Chinese firms while setting up a "debt trap" in more financially vulnerable countries.

READ ALSO: Italian government split over 'Silk Road' accord with China

In Italy, Xi will hold talks with President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, as well as parliamentary leaders, foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press briefing.

"The cooperation between China and Italy under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative is mutually beneficial," Geng said when asked about US criticism of BRI. 

Following Italy's announcement, French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that European Union countries should have a "coordinated approach" regarding China.

"It's a good thing that China is participating in the development of many countries, but I believe in the spirit of equality, reciprocity. The spirit of equality means respecting the sovereignty of nations," Macron said. 

A map shows how the former Silk Road routes could be extended today. Image:Belt and Road Portal, China’s National Development and Reform Commission



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