Italy on the new Silk Road
Lesson Date : 2019-04-15


  • Italy on the new Silk Road
  • Italy has the world's tenth largest economy (America is number one and China number two).
  • The country is a member of the G7 (Group of Seven).
  • These nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain, and the U.S.) are the world's seven most advanced countries with democratic governments.
  • Italy is also a founding member of the European Union (EU).
  • Xi Jinping is China's president.
  • On March 21, he traveled to Italy for a two-day visit.
  • During it, Mr Xi, and Italy's prime minister, Guiseppe Conte, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
  • The agreement is non-binding, or yet to be set in law.
  • However, it means that Italy is likely to join China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
  • It would be the first G7 country and EU member to do so.
  • Italy's decision angered the leaders of the EU and the U.S.
  • Mao Zedong (1893 – 1976) was China's communist leader.
  • He ruled the country for almost 30 years.
  • Under Mao’s leadership, China was a poor country.
  • Most people worked in the fields.
  • A communist nation normally has a “planned economy”.
  • The government makes all investment and business decisions.
  • After Mao's death, Deng Xiaoping (1904 – 1997) took over.
  • He introduced a free-market economy.
  • After this, Chinese people could set up businesses and invest money in new products and services.
  • Since the change, China has been very successful.
  • Within four decades, China had become one of the world's biggest economies.
  • Mr. Xi became China's president in 2012.
  • Many people believe that he is China's most powerful leader since Mao.
  • Five years ago, Mr. Xi launched his Belt and Road Initiative.
  • It is a huge trade and infrastructure project.
  • The BRI's aim is to link China to Asia, Africa and Europe.
  • This is to encourage more trade between them.
  • It will be done via two trade “corridors”.
  • One, the Belt, is overland and the other, the Road, is a sea, or maritime, route.
  • The overland trade corridor is a series of railroads and highways.
  • The maritime route is a number of high-tech ports.
  • Here, modern ships can load and unload their containers easily.
  • China will fund the railroads, highways and ports.
  • Chinese banks supply the money for the infrastructure.
  • The country in which the infrastructure is built has to repay the money.
  • In less developed nations, Chinese companies will build the infrastructure.
  • So far, over 100 BRI projects have been completed.
  • The BRI is meant to be “two-way”.
  • Goods and services from China can flow to Asia, Africa and Europe.
  • Equally, they can flow in the opposite direction to China.
  • Two potential BRI projects in Italy are the rebuilding of old ports at Trieste and Genoa.
  • Some people describe the BRI as modern-day Silk Road.
  • Many years ago, this was an important overland trading route.
  • It connected the eastern Mediterranean and China.
  • The route passed through present-day Iran and Central Asia.
  • It was named after the traders that brought silk from China to Europe.
  • The Silk Road was used for 2,500 years.
  • It followed several routes between cities and towns.
  • Italy's economy has not grown for over ten years.
  • Youth unemployment in the country is high.
  • Italy has large debts as previous governments have borrowed large amounts of money.
  • Nowadays, it is difficult for the Italian government to fund, or pay for, large infrastructure projects.
  • Ten months ago, there was an election in Italy.
  • The traditional political parties did badly.
  • Two parties that have never governed the country before won.
  • They are called the Five Star Movement and the League.
  • Before the election, the two parties pledged to improve Italy's economy and increase the number of jobs.
  • Both are critical of the EU.
  • They dislike many of its regulations and directives.
  • The leaders of both parties did not want to be the prime minister.
  • They agreed to appoint Mr. Conte.
  • EU leaders do not want its members, like Italy, to make their own agreements with China.
  • They say that EU officials should negotiate trade agreements for all the EU’s 28 member countries.
  • Historically, Europe and the U.S. have worked together.
  • Currently, the U.S. and China are involved in a trade dispute.
  • The U.S. is unhappy about the trade imbalance between the two countries.
  • Chinese companies sell many items in the U.S.
  • Yet, far fewer American-made goods are sold in China.
  • The U.S. would prefer European countries to increase their trade with America and not China.
  • Some people criticize China's new Silk Road.
  • They claim that it favors Chinese-made goods and construction companies.
  • These people worry that China will have extra influences in many BRI countries.
  • This is because they will be indebted to Chinese banks.