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  • President Xi gives the opening speech at the Belt and Road Forum.

    President Xi gives the opening speech at the Belt and Road Forum. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 April 2019

The U.S. warns Italy to stay away from China and Russia following their Memorandum of Understanding on China's Belt and Road initiative. 

The United States government becomes growingly concerned over China's influence, especially among its European allies. China's ambitious economic project, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, is seeking to interconnect more than 56 countries through the development of infrastructure under the leadership of the Chinese state. 

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China's Xi Talks 'Silk Road' With Macron, Monaco 

The Chinese investments increased last year to a total of $15.65 billion, up 8.9 percent to the previous year, despite increased criticism from Western countries, particularly the United States, which argue that most of the investments are a debt trap designed to control and buy up various participating states. 

However, Italy was the first G7 country to join China's New Silk Road project and has the U.S. especially worried due to its role in the European Union. 

"We are warning many countries to be aware of the risks posed by supporting the Belt and Road Initiative, especially those who are actively seeking direct foreign investment. But Italy is a special concern because it is a strong ally and a member of the G7," U.S. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis told Italian newsagency ANSA. 

"Pressuring Italy to sign the Bank Rakyat Indonesia (BRI), China seems to believe that Italy is economically vulnerable or politically manipulatable," he added.

Marquis also warned the Italian government of Russia's increasing presence, arguing, "Russia is creating incursions in the Italian political landscape and we strongly encourage Rome to take these activities seriously."

The Belt and Road initiative was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping five years ago and is highlighted as a foreign policy priority for the Chinese government. With the investments in ports, roads and power plants, China is seeking to improve its trade with 85 countries in total. 

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