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Europe Must Unite on China

The Italian government's decision to endorse China's "Belt and Road Initiative" is antithetical to European and Italian interests alike, and plays directly into Chinese President Xi Jinping's hands. While the European Union should pursue a closer relationship with China, it must do so as a single bloc – and thus on a co-equal footing.

BRUSSELS – When seeking investment capital and seemingly lucrative commercial deals, EU member-state governments do not always consider shared European interests. This has especially been the case with respect to China. Yet member states that pursue a relationship with China unilaterally endanger both themselves and the rest of Europe.

True, attempts to define a common EU position toward China have so far been limited. Distracted by the endless Brexit saga and the threats posed by Big Tech, EU leaders have found scant time to discuss many other important issues. Still, in anticipation of an upcoming EU-China summit on April 9, EU leaders did explore common approaches to China at a meeting this month in Brussels, where they highlighted the risks of the Italian government’s decision to endorse Chinese President Xi Jinping’s “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI).

That warning went unheeded. The very next day, Italy’s populist coalition government welcomed Xi in Rome and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China, effectively breaking ranks with the rest of the EU. Sadly, Italy’s decision to participate in the BRI unilaterally will not just undermine the EU’s collective influence vis-à-vis China, but also will result in a worse deal for the Italian people.