Did Xi Jinping conquer Italy or just buy a lot of blood oranges?

The Italian government makes for an unreliable partner, even for China

China, a country the size of a small continent, tends to leverage its heft by negotiating with other states one on one rather than through regional blocs. It has put this technique to use with Asean, the South-east Asian association, using bilateral deals to divide members.

Judging by the tone of President Xi Jinping's visit to Italy and France over the past week, China has adopted the same approach in Europe - this time pitting the Italian government, which is anti-European Union, against the pro-EU French government of President Emmanuel Macron, among others.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 28, 2019, with the headline 'Did Xi Jinping conquer Italy or just buy a lot of blood oranges?'. Subscribe