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Xi Jinping's Dinner Date With Renzi Signals China's Push to Connect to the EU

© AFP 2022 / Lintao Zhang / POOL Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (L) (File)
Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) shakes hands with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi (L) (File) - Sputnik International
As China's President Xi Jinping is set to meet with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on the Italian island of Sardinia, Russian and Chinese experts explain to Sputnik what's at the heart of the upcoming meeting.

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China's President Xi Jinping is spending Wednesday on the Italian island of Sardinia in a stopover en route for a three-country tour of Latin America.

At the invitation of Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, Xi will pay state visits to the three countries from November 17 to 23.

During the tour, he will attend the 24th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting from November 19 to 20 in Lima, capital city of Peru.

Meanwhile, the Chinese President is set to be treated to dinner by Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

The two leaders previously met in China in September on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hangzhou.

The experts suggest that by now the two leaders might have detailed the initiatives previously voiced by them in Hangzhou.

Back in September, Xi Jinping welcomed the active participation of Italy in the Silk Road Economic Belt, the land-based component, and in the oceanic Maritime Silk Road, which together form its One Belt, One road initiative to integrate trade and investment in Eurasia.

He also expressed the desire to deepen cooperation with Italy in the construction of ports, and so experts have not ruled out the possibility of the two leaders announcing something along these lines  after their meeting on Sardinia. It is even more probable after China has made its so-called "maritime diplomacy" one of the top priorities of its cooperation with the EU.

This aspect of the initiative focuses on maritime infrastructure construction along the main Asia–Europe shipping routes. At the beginning of November, China held a Summit with the 16 countries of Central and Eastern Europe in Riga, where the participants reached an agreement on the construction of ports in the Mediterranean, Black and Baltic Seas.

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All the European partners then welcomed China's financial and technological cooperation in this project.

Gao Fei, Professor at China Foreign Affairs University however told Sputnik that Xi Jinping's mission to Italy goes beyond just the Chinese-Italian relationship.

"The development of a relationship between China and the EU plays an extremely important role in China's contacts with the leading countries and regions of the world," he said.

Leaders of China and the EU have been recently exchanging visits, facilitating mutual activity in this direction, which has resulted in Europe taking one the most important places in Chinese diplomacy, he further elaborated.

Besides, the professor added, China is the head-of-the-line of its One Belt, One Road initiative and Europe is its endpoint.

Chinese-European ties are important from all the viewpoints, he said, while Italy is one of the most important countries on the continent. He further elaborated that before Britain's exit from the European Union, Italy was the fourth leading country after the UK, France and Germany.

"The issue of granting China Market Economy Status after 15 years of China's membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO) currently tops the Chinese-European relationship," Gao Fei told Sputnik.

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After the Brexit referendum, Italy's role in the EU is increasing, he said. Therefore,  favorable Chinese-Italian relations would be very useful for the development of Chinese-European relations, deepening of trade and economic cooperation and the resolution of certain burning international problems.

The meeting of the two leaders demonstrates China's high value on the relationship between the two countries and is the highest appraisal of the prospects of the long-term cooperation between China and Europe, the professor stated.

Meanwhile Alexei Khaytun, Head of the Center for Energy Policy at the Institute of Europe RAS told Sputnik that the development of energy cooperation between the two countries will top the agenda of the talks between the two leaders.

"The development of the cooperation between the two states may proceed in several directions," he told Sputnik.

One direction, he explained, is the delivery to China of liquefied natural gas produced by Eni, the Italian oil and gas giant, in various regions of the world.

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Another direction, he further said, is the construction of a nuclear power plant in Italy. China possesses both the financial and technological opportunities for it. The expert did not rule out the participation of France and Germany in the above projects as the largest exporters of nuclear services into the EU.

"Cooperation in this format is also possible in the construction of a nuclear power plant in China, even though recently it has been successful in the construction nuclear plants on its own," Khaytun told Sputnik.

The expert noted that Chinese and Italian energy companies have already been working together successfully, they are partners and not competitors in a number of international projects on the development of oil and gas deposits, in particular in Africa and in the Middle East.

He further noted that this direction is also one of the key prospects for further development of cooperation between the two countries.

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