BEIJING -- Forty years after the establishment of modern diplomatic ties between Italy and China, Rome has become one of Beijing's most-trusted partners in Western Europe. Following recent high-level talks in both capitals, the two countries have enhanced cooperation in a range of areas. With China keen to increase its influence in the Eastern Mediterranean and Italy in desperate need of fresh economic impetus, the potential benefits to both sides could be significant.
In contrast to China's engagement with resource-rich and emerging nations, its interest in Italy is motivated by the Mediterranean country's geographic advantages and advanced technological capabilities. Since launching the Italy-China Governmental Committee in May 2004, the two sides have expanded bilateral ties apace. The Italians have cooperated with the Chinese on numerous environmental, research and training projects, and have cultivated defense and trade ties.
China has reciprocated with surging capital investment in Italy. This has been focused on advanced manufacturing industries, with moves such as the doubling in size of the Chinese-owned Campodoro electronics plant in Padua reinvigorating Italy's ailing industrial sector. Chinese firms are in talks to build a $3 billion sea-freight terminal at Civitavecchia, north of Rome, and are expanding their activities at the southern Italian ports of Naples and Taranto, which could have a transformative economic effect on one of Western Europe's poorest regions. China is also the fastest-growing export market for Italy's important luxury-fashion and automobile sectors, and represents a major new source of demand for Italy's domestic tourism industry.