It was a year of successes for Italy’s international projection: the G20, the Health summit, the conference on Afghanistan, the COP 26. But also of mourning such as the attack on our ambassador in Congo Attanasio Mario Draghi. And of new challenges from Libya to Ukraine. Mario Draghi concludes the two days (Monday and Tuesday) of the ambassadors’ conference reviewing the results achieved in 2021. The premier talks about our “effective multilateralism”, the initiatives undertaken in Europe and in the economic and health management of the pandemic. A “very intense” activity for which he thanks the Foreign Minister, Luigi Di Maio, and the entire diplomatic corps for having worked with “the same spirit of collaboration, determination and pride in representing Italy”. Thanks reciprocated by Di Maio himself, who praised “the extraordinary work, the authority and the credibility” that Draghi’s action gives “to the weight and international image of Italy”.
Draghi talks about the Italian-led G20 that has made very significant progress in terms of global taxation, the distribution of vaccines, the fight against climate change. The extraordinary summit on Afghanistan then served to coordinate a joint response on humanitarian aid and the fight against terrorism. On a bilateral level, he mentions the Quirinal Treaty signed on November 26 and the work on the “action plan” just launched with Germany and “which will lead to greater political coordination between the two countries”. The result of a spirit of collaboration, determination and pride in representing Italy that Draghi says “must accompany us again next year”.
But other important challenges are around the corner: the stabilization of Libya for which “free, credible and inclusive elections” are needed as soon as possible after the predictable postponement of the vote on 24 December. Or the crises on the eastern borders of the EU where the 27 are firm in rejecting any provocation, while keeping the door open to dialogue, many interventions by the ambassadors in presence in Rome. Among all that of our permanent representative in Brussels Piero Benassi who does not hide even some critical issues of the Italian diplomatic service in terms of the modernization and digitization of the diplomatic network. In many of the interventions, an important role of Italy emerges in countries that are protagonists of many global challenges such as China, Russia and India. Three countries where Italy is represented by very dynamic and active diplomats such as Luca Ferrari in Beijing, Giorgio Starace in Moscow and Vincenzo De Luca in Delhi. Here are their full interviews.
CHINA INELUDIBLE ACTOR. 2022 YEAR OF CULTURE AND TOURISM WITH ITALY
Ambassador Ferrari, China is an “unavoidable actor”. Political and strategic rival, negotiating partner, economic competitor, systemic rival. He is at the center of every diplomatic discussion and was the stone guest of the Summit for Democracy wanted by American President Biden. Italy was among the first countries in Europe to sign the agreement for the Belt and Road Initiative. How are Italian companies positioned on the Chinese market today? Italian companies are not doing badly. The overall figure for exports to China in the first 10 months of 2021 on an annual basis records a growth of 28.3% and almost 20% compared to the first 10 months of 2019 for a value of 12.81 billion euros, or substantially the same amount of our exports for the whole of 2020 and only 1.2% less than in 2019. China has thus become the second extra-European market for Italian exports, after the United States and the first in Asia . The export support plan wanted by Minister Di Maio is bearing fruit. Having put the system structures that support our businesses in foreign markets under one umbrella has proved to be a winning move. As well as having aimed, since the end of 2018, at the expansion of our agri-food industry in China with the first agricultural agreements. Today our agricultural and wine exports, etc. they have grown by 500% compared to then and we are traveling towards one billion euros a year.
What are the new opportunities for Italian companies?
For an export-oriented country like Italy, the advantage deriving from the adoption of national strategies that stimulate the consumption potential of 1.4 billion Chinese citizens is easy to understand. In an international system that will still be strongly marked by the pandemic, we must equip ourselves with the tools to reach the Chinese consumer. I am thinking of e-commerce, which in China dominates retail.
The global pandemic has likely accelerated the international discussion related to Chinese growth. Ferrari ambassador, 2022 will not be a year like any other in Beijing. President Xi Jinping aims for re-election. What should we expect?
The last plenum of the Chinese Communist Party adopted a resolution dedicated to the new interpretation of its history. It is the third time this has happened since 1949. With the resolution, the beginning of a “new era” in China is sanctioned. That of a country which, after the Maoist era of the socialist foundation and the Dengist era of its enrichment, now intends to be aware of its specific weight, not only regional, but also on the international stage. Managing relations and world order with the new great Chinese power will be the greatest challenge of the coming decades. We see it every day in the difficult relations with the West. The XXth Congress of the Communist Party of China, in the autumn of 2022, will lead to the probable reconfirmation of President Xi Jinping at the top of the nation, but will renew all the top positions of the same Party and the State. From here to then the Chinese authorities will be committed to laying the foundations of the “new course” and will decide how to direct the growth of Chinese power, to give it more solid foundations inside and outside the country. 2022 will therefore be a crucial year. A sort of election year in a Chinese key that will present many challenges.
We were used to the mantra of 8 percent, a structural target for Chinese growth. The only way to satisfy the balance deriving from sustained population growth and a significant process of urbanization. It is still so’?
The goal remains, but China aims to become an economy no longer exclusively based on supply, but also on demand. This is the meaning of the “dual circulation” announced last year. It will have to settle for more modest objectives, more in line with an advanced manufacturing economy. It is no coincidence that there is already talk, for 2022, of growth of around 5%. On the other hand, the country wants to embrace a more inclusive development that takes into account the dangers of the “middle income trap” and reorients itself towards two different objectives. The first aimed at a greater redistribution of wealth, for a long time concentrated on a few players. Suffice it to say that 1% of the population owns about one third of the national wealth. This is the goal of “common prosperity”, to be achieved by 2049. The greater distribution of wealth aims to make the country’s growth more solid and qualitative, to support domestic consumption and the Chinese middle class, even in the face of restrictions related to the pandemic. The second objective is aimed at curbing a “disorderly expansion of capital”, requiring greater control of the conduct of the big economic giants, especially in the fintech and big data sectors.