Chinese influence in Europe in agriculture: a comparative study between Italy and France

Influence de la Chine sur l'agriculture en France et en Italie

For several years, China has been developing an economic deployment strategy through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or the New Silk Road. This initiative consists of a vast land and sea infrastructure development project aimed at strengthening trade links between China and partner countries.

Italy joined the BRI in 2019, becoming the first European country to accept the initiative. Three years later, trade between China and Italy has set “new records”, reaching 73.55 billion euros and placing Rome as the first European country with trade relations with China. However, the current government of Giorgia Meloni is hesitating over the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding between Rome and Beijing, which will expire in March 2024.

France has not officially joined the BRI. However, France has expressed some interest in BRI projects and has participated in economic cooperation forums with China in the framework of the European Union. It is important to note that France’s position on the BRI is subject to debate, as some politicians have expressed concern about France’s participation in the initiative and the geopolitical implications it could have. The visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Beijing in April 2023 shows this strong interest of France to cooperate with its Chinese counterpart.

Italy and France are two European countries and both members of the European Union, which offer China new opportunities for investment and cooperation. Among the economic sectors concerned, agriculture occupies a strategic place of choice, with cooperation and investment projects in the agri-food sector. So, what are China’s strategies for influencing EU countries in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative?

The objective of this study is to analyse China’s strategies and their impact on the agricultural sector in Italy and France, through concrete examples such as the monopolisation of the seed market in Italy and the acquisition of agricultural land in France. Furthermore, an in-depth comparison of Chinese cooperation in these two European countries will be made to highlight the similarities and differences between the two situations.

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