The interchange between Italy and China is still far from the levels experienced by other manufacturing countries like Germany, and yet among insiders there’s the perception that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit represents a sort of turning point for bilateral relations that could also open the transfer of strategic infrastructure.
This outburst, which was criticized by certain analysts, is a consequence of the 20 agreements signed at this time: among them past agreemtns, like State Grid’s entry into CDP Reti and therefore Snam and Terna; but also China’s efforts to ramp up its soft power, which is still too weak to effectively oppose the United State’s political and monetary dominance.
In a conversation with Formiche.net, Alberto Forchielli, managing partner of Mandarin Capital Partners, commented on these aspects.
Forchielli, how do you reconcile the strong agreement with China and Matteo Renzi’s unconditional support for the TTIP? Is Renzi’s eclecticism slightly reminiscent of Berlusconi’s, a friend to both Bush and Putin?
I don’t see anything strange in Renzi’s dual-path. We live in an interconnected world where everyone is trying to attract investments or export their goods. Even the US does business with China; I don’t see why we shouldn’t.
Riccardo Monti of the ICE said told Sole 24 Ore that the peninsula’s exports to China will double in 4 years as soon as the agreements are signed during Li Keqiang’s visit to Italy.
Obvious, this is a good thing, just like the fact that the Euro-Asian summit, ASEM, is happening in Milan right now. While they’re not deciding on anything relevant, the summit serves to facilitate networking. And we need to take advantage of this because we’re clearly late in doing business with Asia and we’re overexposed in an asphyxiated market like Europe’s. This is a Chinese premier’s first visit to Italy in 4 years. It’s a little too little compared to what happens with other countries, like Germany.
Going back to recent agreements, the analyst Giuliano Noci told Sole 24 Ore that the Chinese and Italian economies are complementary and therefore perfect for reciprocal business. What do you think?
At this point, the best parts of our productive system have already escaped our grasp. Americans have a different way of doing business; they buy excellence, something they’ve frequently done here. Instead, the Chinese are trawling, buying up everything, even ailing businesses. If they’re going to fail, it’s a benefit that someone is buying them, even Beijing. But, at this point almost all of them are struggling, and therefore destined to be sold to the Chinese. We only need to be aware that if we go forward on this path, Italy is destined to become and economic colony.
In your opinion, what will be the consequences?
Managerial and ethical standards will decline. And the opportunities for western professionals in Chinese companies will be almost zero. It will cause a small growth. If we then make the mistake of allowing them into delicate sectors like the media, we risk finding ourselves in front of real party propaganda. Maybe the future won’t be like this, but today a Chinese world is certainly worse than an American one. Beijing is trying to strengthen its image and soft power for this reason as well. No one is escaping from the US to work in China, while the opposite happens frequently. I repeat, the business deals are ok—especially when it comes to selling ailing companies—but it’s unfortunate that it has to happen in this way.
What are you referring to?
I have the impression that we have attitudes like beggars. We’re yielding our businesses and celebrating it like it’s a victory. Instead, the truth is that there’s a defeat behind every sale.
Interview by Michele Pierri originally published in Italian on formiche.net on 10/15/14