The Chinese President, Mr. Xi Jinping, will travel to Italy, Monaco and France this week, the foreign ministry said, with Rome expected to join his global trade infrastructure programme despite reservations in other European nations.
Beijing has financed infrastructure, maritime, rail and road projects in Asia, Africa and Europe, but critics warn that it mainly benefits Chinese firms while setting up a 'debt trap' in more financially vulnerable countries.
Mr. Xi will pay state visits from Thursday to March 26, according to the foreign ministry. An Italian official said last week that Rome would sign a non-binding memorandum of understanding with Beijing to officially support Mr. Xi’s massive 1 trillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), also known as the New Silk Road.
In Italy, Mr. Xi will hold talks with the President, Mr. Sergio Mattarella, and the Prime Minister, Mr. Giuseppe Conte, as well as parliamentary leaders, foreign ministry spokesman, Mr. Geng Shuang, said. 'The cooperation between China and Italy under the framework of the BRI is mutually beneficial.'