// Pathways to Peace and Security. 2020. No 2(59). P. 81-95
Dario Cristiani (Italy) is a Senior Fellow at Instituto Affari Internazionali, Rome, and at German Marshall Fund, Washington D.C.
After originating in China, the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world. Italy was the next country severely hit by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, before the rest of Europe and the world. As Italy struggled to cope with this mounting crisis, China seized the momentum through an aggressive mix of public diplomacy, aid support and disinformation activities. By helping Italy, China pursued three goals: transforming its weaknesses in strengths by shifting the narrative over its handling of the COVID-19 crisis; promoting its management of the situation as the proof of the strength of its governance model; showing to the Italians, the Europeans and the world how Italy was benefitting from being a member of the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s activism in Italy prompted reaction from the United States, and the COVID-19 strained relations between the two superpowers even further. While the idea that a new Cold War is brewing might be far-fetched, the relations between the two are now less and less cooperative. This increasing competition will also impact Italy’s diplomatic freedom of action vis-à-vis China – a trend that is not set to change as the new J.Biden administration takes over in the United States, as his approach to China is likely to be less erratic and more consistent, but hardly softer than Trump’s China policy.
Italy, China, United States, Covid-19, Belt and Road Initiative, multipolarity, great power politics
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