Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is speaking out about Italy’s reported willingness to sign onto the People’s Republic of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, telling Breitbart News that reports of the Italians’ openness to joining the Communist Party of China program is “stunningly naive.”
Rubio’s comments come in the wake of reports that Italy is signing onto the Belt and Road Initiative of Chinese president Xi Jinping later this month, which would make Italy the first G-7 nation to join the program.
“Italy’s reported desire to curry favor with the Communist Chinese government by endorsing the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ is stunningly naive,” Rubio told Breitbart News. “China’s goal is simple – undermine foreign competition by stealing intellectual property and trade secrets, and artificially propping up Chinese state-directed actors at the expense of its trading ‘partners’. As we in the U.S. are learning, the long-term economic and national security risks far outweigh any increases in Chinese foreign investment or increased exports to China. Until the Chinese government fundamentally alters its goals and methods, the U.S. and its allies should remain wary of tighter economic engagement.”
China’s Belt and Road Initiative is an effort by Beijing to build economic, cultural, and political influence through Eurasia, across mainland Asia into the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. The Financial Times broke the news of Italy’s reported desire to agree to China’s plans, quoting Michele Geraci–an undersecretary in Italy’s economic development industry–as saying that Rome intended to sign a memorandum of understanding with Beijing soon about the program.
“The negotiation is not over yet, but it is possible that it will be concluded in time for [Xi’s] visit,” Geraci said, per the Financial Times. “We want to make sure that ‘Made in Italy’ products can have more success in terms of export volume to China, which is the fastest-growing market in the world.”
White House officials are not pleased with Italy’s planned move.
“We view BRI as a ‘made by China, for China’ initiative,” White House National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis told the Financial Times. “We are sceptical that the Italian government’s endorsement will bring any sustained economic benefits to the Italian people, and it may end up harming Italy’s global reputation in the long run.”
The European Union (EU) was similarly critical of the move by Italy, and even some in Italian government were critical of the effort. More from the Financial Times piece:
Critics of the BRI have also emerged within the Italian government. Hours after the FT first reported the dispute between Washington and Rome, Guglielmo Picchi, undersecretary of state for foreign affairs and international co-operation and an MP from the coalition’s far-right League party called for “further reflection” within the government.
“Right now, I don’t think we should proceed with the signature,” Mr Picchi wrote on Twitter. Mr Picchi declined to comment further.
Geopolitically along the Asian Pacific Rim, this could also spell bigger trouble for the west and be even more of a boon for China than just being able to claim a G-7 European power as one of its Belt and Road Initiative signers. The democracy on Taiwan’s continued independence despite claims by the mainland Chinese Communists to sovereignty over Taiwan largely depends on continued relations with the Vatican, which is in Rome. The Vatican is one of a few nations worldwide, and perhaps the most powerful, that officially conducts diplomacy with Taiwan and not with Beijing. Beijing has refused to negotiate with countries that have official diplomatic ties with Taipei, Taiwan, and the Vatican for generations.
The Republic of China, a democracy that governs Taiwan, is the old government that fell back to Taipei in the mid-20th century when Mao Zedong led the communist revolution that installed communism in Beijing and on the mainland. Nations, like the Vatican, that maintain official diplomatic ties with Taiwan consider Taiwan to be the Republic of China–or the rightful government of China–and do not have official diplomatic ties with Beijing.
The People’s Republic of China, the mainland communist government based in Beijing, has been trying to get control of Taiwan for decades because of the strategic importance it would grant Beijing to control the South China Sea and shipping routes along the Pacific Rim. China has been, as Rubio explained in a previous Breitbart News exclusive interview, working to flip a variety of nations’ allegiance from diplomatic relations with Taiwan to diplomatic relations with Beijing. The communists on the mainland have succeeded in flipping a variety of other countries including recently Panama and the Dominican Republic and others throughout Latin America, but the Vatican has for now remained the strongest ally of Taiwan.
But with Rome considering signing onto Beijing’s major influence initiative, that could lead to even more pressure on the Rome-based Vatican than already exists to back down from Taiwan. For now, the Vatican remains committed to Taiwan. But Pope Francis has been reportedly open to working with Beijing on state-approved bishops in China, has urged “loyalty” to the Chinese communist regime in Beijing, and even said Christians should not fear looking like “communists.”
Rubio, in a previous Breitbart News exclusive interview, explained that the Chinese are attempting to “supplant” the United States on the world stage in a manner that the United States and the world have never seen before.
“The Chinese effort to supplant America has no precedent,” Rubio said. “The Soviet Union wanted to ideologically supplant us, so they were a geopolitical competitor primarily trying to overthrow governments and install communism. And they were a military competitor. But they were never an industrial or economic competitor, and they approached us sort of frontally and openly. The Chinese effort to supplant America is first deeply rooted in their view of history, that it is their rightful place to be the most powerful nation on earth, and that the last hundred years are an aberration, and so they’re going to set things right. Second, it’s based on frankly suckering the West and America into believing that they are a poor and developing country who just wants to be like us. We’ve made policy decisions for two decades or longer based on that assumption that’s now come back to bite us.”