Italy, China, and Africa Busting Apart Old Geo-Political Regime

March 23, 2019

Italy and China Sign Groundbreaking MOU on Belt and Road Initiative

 

 

Italy and China have signed the famous Memorandum of Understanding on Belt and Road cooperation today, together with 10 economic agreements and 18 institutional agreements (19 with the BRI MOU). The MOU is a milestone and is said to already be being studied by other countries that want to follow Italy.

The MOU says at the outset that “The Parties will work together within the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) to translate mutual complementary strengths into advantages for practical cooperation and sustainable growth, supporting synergies between the Belt and Road Initiative and priorities identified in the Investment Plan for Europe and the Trans-European Networks, bearing in mind discussions in the EU China Connectivity Platform.”

With the MOU, Italy is the first large industrial economy to join the Belt and Road, as Chinese media proudly stress. The signature of the MOU occurred in spite of trans-Atlantic pressures and open hostility by Italy’s “partners” in the EU. Italian Minister for Economic Development Luigi Di Maio, who signed the MOU together with his counterpart He Lifeng, chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission, stated that “today is for us a very important day, in which the Made in Italy is winning, Italian firms are winning. We made a step to help our economy to grow. Italy came first with China.”

The economic agreements include: a strategic partnership between the Italian Cassa Depositi e Prestiti and the Bank of China to finance Italian firms in China; a MOU between the Italian oil company ENI and the Bank of China for explorations in China; Ansaldo Energia signed two agreements, one to develop gas turbines with UGTC and another one for the supply of a turbine to Shanghai Electric and Benxi Steel; the Port Authorities of Trieste and Genoa signed an agreement with the construction giant CCCC. Cassa Depositi and the natural gas utility Snam signed a deal with the Silk Road Fund for investments along the Silk Road; the Institute for Foreign Trade signed a deal with Suning to create a platform to promote Italian lifestyle in China; and the Danieli group signed a contract with China Camc Engineering for the construction of a steel plant in Azerbaijan.

The institutional agreements, besides the MOU on the BRI cooperation, include cooperation on innovative startups and electronic trade, as well as cooperation between the two space agencies, agriculture and culture, health and media.

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Italian Finance Minister Tria on Italy-China-Africa Cooperation

In an op-ed in {China Daily}, entitled “As Belt and Road Opens New Doors Across Globe, Italy To Play A Key Role,” Italian Finance minister Giovanni Tria emphasized Sino-Italian cooperation to develop Africa.

After praising the BRI as a way to relaunch global economic integration, Tria recalled that “In September, the Italian government signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s National Development and Reform Commission for joint cooperation in third countries. This way, Italy and China are committed to collaborating in important geographical areas such as Africa, which in the near future will be a top actor for demographic reasons and due to its prospects for economic growth.

“Playing a role in building and restoring large infrastructure is an invaluable opportunity for Italian companies. There is an astonishing variety of areas of expertise where Italy can provide a competitive, paramount contribution. Beyond those more strictly linked to the physical construction of infrastructure (machiner), logistics and plant construction), Italy has strong capabilities in the provision of high-quality technical services such as consulting, feasibility studies, design, engineering services, security, finance and insurance.

“Italy believes in the prospective cooperative development of the BRI. This process will help to identify the paths of action and the main projects. Italy also enjoys a strategic geographical position along the current and future frames of commercial relations between the East, the West and Africa. Located on the Mediterranean Sea, Italy is the second-largest manufacturing country in Europe, leading in technological innovation and equipped with high-quality ports and road and rail networks. These features make Italy the ideal southern gateway to continental Europe and for the trade routes between Europe and China.

“By opening new connections and intensifying trade relations, the BRI will help improve the competitiveness of Italian and Chinese companies operating in each other’s markets and together toward third markets, leaving the respective governments with the task of providing adequate support to foster a business-friendly climate that can enhance their expertise, strengths and innovative approaches.

“I believe that developing physical connections, while enlarging and strengthening cooperation networks and partnerships, represents a valuable opportunity to face the challenge of sustainable growth and to avoid backtracking toward protectionism and nationalism. Commercial synergies and relationships of trust represent the path we want to take to counter international tensions and to favor wider and more widespread global well-being.”

 

China and Italy Challenging Old Geo-Political World Order

This signed article by Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, was published March 20, in Corriere della Sera, a leading  Italian newspaper on the eve of his state visit to Italy. It is a beautiful expression of the potential alliance of “East and West.” The old geo-political order manipulated this so called division to maintain political domination. Hopefully, we are now embarking on a new era with the old-order is coming to an end. 

Chinese President, Xi Xinping, to arrive in Italy

East Meets West — A New Chapter of Sino-Italian Friendship

It is a great pleasure for me to pay a state visit to the Italian Republic at the invitation of President Sergio Mattarella in this blossoming season of spring. In 2011, I visited Rome on celebrations of the 150th anniversary of Italian unification and, in 2016, I had a stopover on Sardinia. I was deeply impressed by the way of life and industrial outlook of Italy that blend together the ancient and the modern, the classic and the novel. Now that I am about to set foot again on this beautiful country, it feels like I am to be among old friends, and get immersed in
their wonderful hospitality.

China and Italy are both stellar examples of Eastern and Western civilizations, and both have written splendid chapters in the history of human progress. Being the birthplace of ancient Roman civilization and the cradle of the Renaissance, Italy is known to the Chinese people for its imposing relic sites and masterpieces of great names in art and literature. Friendly ties between our two great civilizations go back a long way. As early as over 2,000 years ago, China and ancient Rome, though thousands of miles apart, were already connected by the Silk Road. During the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220), Chinese emissary Gan Ying was sent to search for “Da Qin”, the Chinese name of the Roman Empire at the time. Roman poet Virgil and geographer Pomponius Mela made many references to Seres, the land of silk. The famous explorer Marco Polo’s Travels roused the first wave of “China fever” among European countries. That pioneer of cultural exchanges between
East and West was followed by a long list of personages in search of friendship over the centuries.

In our own era, China-Italy relations, tracing the footsteps of our ancestors, are brimming with dynamism. The People’s Republic of China and the Italian Republic established diplomatic relations in 1970. In 2020, the two countries will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our relations. Through the past decades, our two countries have enjoyed mutual trust and close cooperation regardless of changes in the international landscape. Together, we have set a fine example of mutually beneficial relations between two countries that have different social systems,
cultural backgrounds and stages of development. The traditional friendship between us, stronger than ever, has become a strong pillar supporting the rapid and steady growth of our bilateral ties.

Sino-Italian friendship is rooted in our long history of exchanges. In the course of over two millennia, our two countries have embraced the principles of mutual respect, mutual learning, mutual trust and mutual understanding in our interactions, principles that underpin our long-lasting, ever-strong friendship. Confronted by the transformations and challenges of today’s world and informed by our deep appreciation of history, China and Italy both envision a new type of international relations that are built on mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, and a community with a shared future for all mankind.

Sino-Italian friendship is embedded in our deep strategic trust. Both countries’ leaderships approach our relations from a strategic and long-term perspective. Since the establishment of a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2004, our two countries, guided and driven by high-level exchanges, have given each other understanding and firm support on issues concerning our respective core interests and major concerns. Our strategic trust provides a firm underpinning for the long-term and steady growth of China-Italy relations.

Sino-Italian friendship is reflected in our multi-faceted cooperation. As key trading and investment partners for each other, China and Italy have deeply entwined interests. Two-way trade exceeded 50 billion U.S. dollars in 2018 and investment surpassed 20 billion dollars in accumulative terms. “Made in Italy” is a guarantee of quality, Italian fashion and furniture are immensely popular with Chinese consumers, and pizza and tiramisu are the love of many young Chinese. Every now and then, we hear stories about the success of Sino-Italian cooperation in satellite R&D and manned space exploration. Initiatives such as the China-Italy Science, Technology and Innovation Week, joint police patrols and football training, to name just a few, are applauded by people in both countries.

Sino-Italian friendship is carried forward through our intensive cultural exchanges. Chinese and Italians have a deep interest in each other’s cultures. A Chinese professor in his 70s spent 18 years translating Dante’s Divine Comedy, and after revising several drafts, completed this mammoth task before his final days. From Martino Martini, author of the first Chinese grammar book in Europe, to Giuliano Bertuccioli and Federico Masini who wrote Italy and China, many Italian Sinologists have built bridges between Europe and China and contributed to a
long-running boom of China studies on the Apennine Peninsula.

The well-known Italian writer Alberto Moravia once wrote, “Friendships are not chosen by chance, but according to the passions that dominate us.” In a world that faces profound changes of a kind unseen in a century, the onus is on us to bring China-Italy relations to a higher level and to jointly safeguard world peace, stability, development and prosperity. Through my upcoming visit, I hope to work with Italian leaders to map out the future of our relationship and move it into a new era.

China hopes to work with Italy to strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership. Our two countries may plan more high-level exchanges and cooperation between our governments, parliaments, political parties and sub-national entities, strengthen policy communica-tion, enhance strategic trust and synergy, and continue to give understanding and support to each other on issues of core interests and major concerns, so as to consolidate the political foundation of our relations.

China hopes to work with Italy to advance Belt and Road cooperation. Our two countries may harness our historical and cultural bonds forged through the ancient Silk Road as well as our geographical locations to align connectivity cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative with Italy’s plan to develop its northern ports and the Invest-Italia program, and jointly build the Belt and Road of the new era on sea, on land, in the air, in space and in the cultural domain.

China hopes to work with Italy to expand cooperation into new areas. China will open up further to the rest of the world, and share its market opportunities with Italy and other countries through the annual China International Import Expo and other avenues. Our two countries may fully tap our cooperation potential in ports, logistics, ship-building, transportation, energy, telecommunications, medicine and other fields, and encourage our companies to partner with each other in third markets for win-win cooperation.

China hopes to work with Italy to promote closer people-to-people ties. As countries with the largest number of UNESCO world heritage sites, China and Italy have plenty of cultural and tourism resources. We may encourage our world heritage sites to forge twinning relationships and our cultural institutions and individuals to organize premium relic and art exhibitions. We may also encourage joint production of films and TV programs, the teaching of each other’s languages, as well as more mutual travel and visits. Through these exchanges, we will make new contributions to the diversity of civilizations and mutual learning between different cultures.

China hopes to strengthen coordination with Italy in international affairs and multilateral organizations. China is ready to enhance communication and collaboration with Italy in the United Nations (UN), the G20, Asia-Europe Meeting and the World Trade Organization (WTO) on global governance, climate change, UN reform, WTO reform and other major issues. Working together, we will promote our shared interests, uphold multilateralism and free trade, and safeguard world peace, stability, development and prosperity.

Looking back at the last five decades, China-Italy relations have struck deep roots and borne rich fruits. Looking ahead, China-Italy cooperation will continue to flourish and prosper. The Chinese people look forward to working hand in hand with our friends in Italy to carry forward our blossoming relationship and imbue our friendship with more vitality and dynamism.

President Trump’s Non-African Strategy: Published in AU’s “Invest in Africa” magazine

Below is my article on President Trump’s Non-African Strategy, January 1, 2019, that was published (abridged) in the African Union magazine: “Invest in Africa“-2019 vol 1. You can find it on page 109 (129 on the link to the magazine). There are many worth while articles to read in this volume of the AU magazine  

 

 

Lawrence Freeman

January 1, 2019

After waiting almost two years for President Trump to articulate his policy for Africa, last month he unveiled his US-African Strategy, through the mouth of National Security Adviser John Bolton.  It should be called the Non-Africa Strategy because it has little if anything to do with the continent of Africa itself. Rather, it is essentially a geo-political tactic aimed primarily at China and to a lesser extent Russia. President Trump has put his stamp of approval on the age-old British inspired geo-political ideology that views foreign policy as a “global zero-sum game”-a world with only winners and losers among the super-powers. All other (lesser) nations are treated simply as movable pieces in their fantasy game. In other words, in this administration’s policy, Africa is a pawn on their geo-political chess board. Sadly, this so-called African stratagem shows no concern for well-being of the African people, doing nothing to improve the conditions of life on the continent, nor does it enhance US security.

Bolton explicitly attacks China’s new paradigm in foreign policy-the Belt and Road Initiative-while threatening African nations who do not support the US position on China and Russia. Blinded by their geo-political world view, the Trump administration displays disdain for the fruitful collaboration of China (primarily) with Africa nations in building vitally needed infrastructure across the African continent. In many cases constructing new railroads for the first time since the days of imperialist-colonial domination.

The Trump/Bolton policy has already failed from the start. It is too late to stop Africa’s momentum for economic development with its allies. However, if the Trump administration were more thoughtful, it would formulate a strategy to assist African nations in reducing their massive deficits in crucial categories of infrastructure.

Return to a Real American Strategy for Africa

The promotion of human life should (must) be the most important goal of all foreign policy. Human beings uniquely possess the cognitive-creative mental capacity to transform the physical universe. Only through new scientific discoveries by a sovereign human mind, can we ensure the continued material-biological propagation of our human race. Thus, the promotion of physical (not financial) economic growth, which sustains human progress, is the core of any competent “good neighbor” foreign policy.

Presidents John Kennedy and Kwame Nkrumah, Washington DC, March 1963

President John Kennedy was our last president who identified with and supported the development of the newly liberated African nations. His unique friendship with Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah resulted in securing the funding for the Akosombo Dam on the Volta River which provided hydro-power for aluminum smelting and electricity for the people. This project stands as a monument today in Ghana (and Africa) in contradistinction to the El Mina slave dungeon, and other “slave castles” along Ghana’s coast.  We should remember that it was the African liberator, President Nkrumah, who was the very first Head of State invited by President Kennedy to Washington DC on March 8, 1961.  Four months later, the pro-African President invited Tafawa Balewa, the Prime Minister of the newly independent Republic of Nigeria to the White House.

Not one of the ten US Presidents following the death of Kennedy have emulated in practice his genuine concern for the advancement of the African people. However, President Kennedy was not original in his vision for Africa.

President Franklin Roosevelt famously scolded British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, during their war-time conferences, for Britain’s imperialist exploitation of Africa. He drove Churchill into an apoplectic fit, when he threatened to do away with British Imperialism and its eighteenth-century methods, after the war was won.

President Roosevelt expressed his vision for Africa’s development when told his son Elliott, that with the re-creation of a lake in the depressed flats in North Africa, “The Sahara would bloom for hundreds of miles.” He also reminded his son of the rivers which arise in Atlas Mountains and disappear under the Desert. “Divert this water flow for irrigation purposes?  It’d make the Imperial Valley in California look like a cabbage patch!”

This is the way US leaders true to our American System of economic progress used to think.

Africa’s Future

Africa’s population is projected to expand to 2.5 billion people in 2050- a generation and a half generation from now. The continent is well situated to become the center of world commerce, with its expanding population, vast tracts of arable land, and its abundance of natural resources. To secure this future, Africa needs trillions of dollars invested in infrastructure. There is no “zero sum” competition. Africa’s friends should cooperate in promoting the limitless number of infrastructure projects that Africa desperately needs. If, Africa and its allies fail to fully develop its enormous potential, and African nations are unable to productively employ and instill hope for a better future to the continent’s projected 2050 population of a billion young people, then we should anticipate perilously new levels instability and insecurity.

It should be obvious to all, including President Trump and his advisers that there will be no security without economic development.

It would be best for both the US and Africa, for President Trump to jettison this terribly flawed policy and advance a real American vision for the continent.  This should include collaboration with China on building transformative infrastructure such as the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project to refurbish the shrinking Lake Chad.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, and Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission