Italy’s Coalition Finds New Source of Strain in China Ties

(Bloomberg) -- Pressure from the European Union and the U.S. is sparking a new conflict for Italy’s squabbling populist coalition, as the two parties running the government scramble to find a coherent policy on China.

An analysis by the European Commission on commercial agreements with China will implicitly caution Rome on its proposed role in the Belt and Road infrastructure initiative, Italian newspapers reported Tuesday.

The warning shot from Brussels follows weeks of back and forth with Washington over U.S. security concerns about Huawei Technologies Co.’s role in developing Italy’s telecommunications infrastructure.

That was enough to get the finger-pointing started between the coalition partners, Matteo Salvini’s League, which has struck a cautious tone on links to China, and Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement, which has been more aggressive on the advantages of ties between the two countries.

Salvini on Monday struck a discordant note even as the populist government prepared to sign an accord with China, saying he doesn’t want foreign companies “colonizing Italy.”

Di Maio, who has favored fast-tracking a role for Huawei while downplaying U.S. security concerns, went into damage-control mode as he sought to keep the Belt and Road plan on track while reassuring allies.

The Five Star leader asked party officials to help spread the message that Italy is committed to its ties to the U.S., telling them to stress that the proposed accord with Beijing “isn’t a political alliance,” daily La Stampa reported.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.