PRC Discoursive Force Against the Normative Force of the EU: The Case of Italy

DOI: 10.20542/0131-2227-2020-64-5-62-72
E. Alekseenkova (,
Institute of Europe, Russian Academy of Sciences (IE RAS), 11/ 3, Mokhovaya Str., Moscow, 125009, Russian Federation

Abstract. The article analyzes China’s attempts to confront the EU’s normative power by the example of Italy joining the “Belt and Road Initiative” on March 23, 2019. The author claims that the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between Italy and China was not so much economic as political for both countries and for the European Union as a whole, which was the reason for the public criticism from Brussels of the actions of the Italian leadership. The author concludes that the political significance of the event for China lies in an attempt to publicly “overcome” the EU normative power, and for Italy, in an effort to uphold the principle of national sovereignty and position itself as an actor within the European Union, capable of influencing the process of formation of the EU normative power in interaction with third countries. At the same time, the case of Italy demonstrates that in opposing the EU normative power, the PRC uses a certain discursive strategy, which is to form a social network of trust within the country and increase the amount of social capital to a level that can influence the political decision-making process. The Italian “government of change” in this case turned out to be the most “convenient” partner, since from the very beginning it has built conflict discourse with Brussels, upholding the principle of national sovereignty in foreign and domestic policy, and thereby undermining the effectiveness of the EU normative power. Thus, the signing of the memorandum reveals the weakening of the normative force of the European Union, the effectiveness of which is being questioned not only by the “new” EU members, but also by the political leadership of one of the founding states of the Union. This reflects a very real risk that the development of the ideas of “sovereignty” can harm the EU’s international activity.

Keywords: Italy, PRC, “Belt and Road Initiative”, normative power, discursive power, social networks


1. Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Italian Republic and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on Cooperation within the Framework of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

2. Liang H., Zhang Y. International Discourse Power: Belt and Road is not Starting from Scratch. The Theoretical System of Belt and Road Initiative. Springer Singapore, 2019, pp. 51-55. DOI:10.1007/978-981-13-7701-3

3. Gustaffson K. Is China’s Discursive Power Increasing? The “Power of the Past” in Sino-Japanese Relations. Asian Perspective, 2014, vol. 38, no. 3 (July-September), pp. 411-433. DOI:

4. Zhao K. China’s Rise and Its Discursive Power Strategy. Chinese Political Science Review, 2016, no. 1, pp. 539-564. DOI:10.1007/s41111-016-0037-8

5. Szczudlik J. Seven Years of the 16+1: An Assessment of China’s ‘Multilateral Bilateralism’ in Central Europe. French Institute of International Relations. Asie.Visions, 2019, no. 107 (April). Available at: (accessed 09.07.2019).

6. Screening of Foreign Direct Investment in Strategic Sectors. Available at: (accessed 09.07.2019).

7. Zhdanova Yu.D., Istomin I.A. Reaktsiya ES na ehkonomicheskoe vozvyshenie KNR [EU Reaction to China’s Economic Rise]. Vestnik MGIMO-Universiteta, 2017, no. 5 (56), pp. 91-113. DOI:10.24833/2071-8160-2017-5-56-91-113

8. North D. C. Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1990. 152 p.

9. Pavlova E.B., Romanova T.A. Normativnaya sila: teoriya i sovremennaya praktika Rossii i ES [Normative Power: Some Theory Aspects and Contemporary Practice of Russia and the EU]. Polis. Political Studies, 2017, no. 1. pp. 162-176. DOI:

10. Manners I. Normative Power Europe: A Contradiction in Terms? Journal of Common Market Studies, 2002, vol. 40, no. 2 (June), pp. 235-258. Available at: (accessed 09.07.2019).

11. Volkov V., Kharkhordin O. Teoriya praktik [Theory of Practices]. Sankt-Petersburg, Izdatel’stvo Evropeiskogo universiteta v Sankt-Peterburge, 2008. 298 p.

12. Brzozowski A., Velara J. ‘Don’t be Naive with China’, EU Leaders Tell Italy. Euractiv, 22.03.2019. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

13. Fardella E. A Significant Periphery of the Cold War: Italy-China Bilateral Relations, 1949–1989. Cold War History, 2017, vol. 17, Issue 2: Socialism, Capitalism and Sino-European Relations in the Deng Xiaoping Era, 1978–1992, pp. 181-197. DOI:

14. Comunicazione della commissione. Una politica a lungo termine per le relazioni Cina-Europa. Commissione delle communita’ europee. Bruxelles, 05.07.1995. Available at: (accessed 07.07.2019).

15. Casarini N. 40 anni dopo: quale future per le relazioni Europa-Cina. OrizzonteCINA, 2015, vol. 6, no. 1 (Gennaio-Febbraio), pp. 3-5. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

16. Saluto di Romano Prodi, gia Presidente della Commissione. OrizzonteCINA, 2015, vol. 6, no. 1 (Gennaio-Febbraio), p. 2. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

17. Adornino G. Le relazioni Italia-Cina: verso il rilancio del partenariato. OrizzonteCINA, 2015, vol. 6, no. 1 (Gennaio-Febbraio), pp. 9-10. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

18. Zhongping F., Jing H. Le relazioni tra Cina e Unione europea: oltre le crisi, verso una nuova fase? OrizzonteCINA, 2015, vol. 6, no. 1 (Gennaio-Febbraio), pp. 5-7. Available at: (accessed 16.07.2019).

19. Adornino G. Il partenariato tra Italia e Cina alla prova. OrizzonteCINA, Maggio 2013, pp. 2-3. Available at: (accessed 16.07.2019).

20. Italia-Cina, accordi per 8 miliardi di euro. A Enel fino a 1 miliardo da Bank of China. Il Fatto Quotidiano, 14.10.2014. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

21. Adornino G. I rapporti con la Cina. Rapporto sulla politica estera italiana: il governo Renzi. Quaderni IAI. Roma, Edizione Nuova Cultura, 2016, pp. 113-116. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

22. Grieger G. EU Framework for FDI Screening. European Parliamentary Research Service. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

23. Fittipaldi E. Per Salvini ci sono “prima gli italiani”, ma al minister assumono cinesi. L’Espresso, 04.12.2018. Available at:‑1.329184 (accessed 10.07.2017).

24. La Belt and Road Initiative avvicina pechino all’Europa. Diplomazia Economica Italiana, 2018, no. 3. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

25. Fabbrini S., Zgaga T. Italy and the European Union: the Discontinuity of the Conte Government. Contemporary Italian Politics, 2019, vol. 11, no. 3, pp. 280-293. DOI:10.1080/23248823.2019.1642657

26. Alekseenkova E.S. Strana pobedivshego populizma: Italiya posle vyborov [The Country of the Winning Populism: Italy in the Post-Election Period]. Contemporary Europe, 2019, no. 2, pp. 106-117. DOI:

27. EU-China – A Strategic Outlook. European Commission and HR/VP Contribution to the European Council. 12 March 2019. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

28. Fontana L., Franco M. Via della Seta, Conte: “Italia-Cina, Intesa limpida: l’obiettivo e crescere”. Corriere della Sera, 13.03.2019. Available at:‑0b5a29ac‑450d‑11e9-b3b0–2162e8762643.shtml (accessed 10.07.2019).

29. Italia e Cina, pronti per una fase nuova. Intervista con il ministro dell’Economia e delle Finanze Giovanni Tria. Il, 26.02.2019. Available at:‑1652596.html (accessed 10.07.2019).

30. Alekseenkova E. “Via della seta”: Italiya prisoedinilas’ k “Initsiative poyasa i puti” KNR [“Via della seta”: Italy Joined the “One belt, One Road” Initiative]. Analiticheskie zapiski Instituta Evropy RAN. 2019, no. 7 (158). Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

31. Germany’s Concerns. Economia, Societa et Mondo. Sfida et opportunita per l’Italia di Michele Geraci. Available at: (accessed 10.07.2019).

Registered in System SCIENCE INDEX

For citation:
Alekseenkova E. PRC Discoursive Force Against the Normative Force of the EU: The Case of Italy. World Eonomy and International Relations, 2020, vol. 64, no. 5, pp. 62-72.

Comments (0)

No comments

Add comment






Dear authors! Please note that in the VAK List of peer-reviewed scientific journals, in which the main scientific results of dissertations for the degree of candidate and doctor of sciences should be published for the “MEMO Journal” the following specialties are recorded:
economic sciences:
5.2.5. World Economy.
5.2.1. Economic Theory
5.2.3. Regional and Branch Economics
political sciences:
5.5.4. International Relations
5.5.1. History and Theory of Politics
5.5.2. Political Institutions, Processes, Technologies


Current Issue
2024, vol. 68, No. 7
Topical Themes of the Issue:
  • The Supporting Structure of Global Security
  • Institutional Features of the Fourth Energy Transition
  • The Evolution of Modern German Christian Democracy
  • The Monarchies of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia
Submit an Article
The Editorial Board invites authors to write analytical articles on the following topics:
  • changes in the processes of globalization in modern conditions
  • formation of the new world order
  • shifts in civilization at the stage of transition to a digital society

The editors are also interested in publishing synthesis articles / scientific reviews revealing the main trends in the development of certain regions of the world - Latin America, Africa, South Asia, etc.