Osservatorio di Politica internazionale (February, 2023)

Cina e Indo-Pacifico

How China’s economic zones are challenging global norms (August 8, 2023)

This article explores the economic, legal, and political implications of Chinese investments in Europe and Africa through the establishment of overseas economic and trade cooperation zones (COCZs)……

Visualizing China’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Politics of Mapping (August 2, 2023)

This article explores the critical role of maps in understanding China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a monumental global infrastructure development project spanning 139 countries……

China’s overseas economic and trade cooperation zones (June 6, 2023)

China’s overseas economic and trade cooperation zones (COCZs) have become an integral part of China’s Go Global policy, initiated in 1999, and more recently of the country’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The development of COCZs reflects China’s efforts to secure advantageous trading conditions for its businesses abroad, create a safer environment for its economic development, and cultivate its soft power……

La Via della seta si è adattata al nuovo disordine geopolitico (August 11, 2022)

Launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, the ambitious initiative aims to enable China to strengthen and develop its economic and political ties with the rest of the world.

The pandemic has either suspended or delayed many projects, including the construction of the Colombo port in Sri Lanka, the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway in Indonesia, and projects in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor. However, it has also accelerated certain trends: a heightened focus on sustainability, the quality of infrastructure, and the assessment of economic, environmental, and strategic risks.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative in a post-pandemic world (August 10, 2022)

Launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to enable China to consolidate and advance its economic and political ties with the rest of the world. The BRI has faced several challenges in recent years…….

Is Russia’s War in Ukraine a Turning Point for US-China Relations (May 8, 2022)

The conflict triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reveals significant geopolitical shifts. While the West unites against Russia, a stronger authoritarian partnership emerges between Russia and China. China’s neutrality in the conflict reflects a delicate balancing act, maintaining ties with both Russia and the West……

Can China succeed in joining the CPTPP? (April 20, 2022)

Initiated in 2013 under President Xi Jinping, the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) aims to strengthen China’s global economic and political connections. However, the BRI has encountered various challenges, including domestic obstacles to outbound investment, increasing risks in the developing world, and negative rhetoric surrounding the initiative. These factors have contributed to a decline in China’s foreign investment. Many now speculate that the Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a significant blow to this trillion-dollar grand strategy……

Can and should the US compete with China in infrastructure diplomacy? (November 23, 2021)

After years of neglect by developed countries and international development institutions, infrastructure is receiving renewed attention, driven by a staggering global infrastructure gap of more than $40 trillion. China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which pledges trillions for infrastructure on global trade routes, has raised concerns and inspired competing plans around the world……

Questioning the Debt-Trap Diplomacy Rhetoric surrounding Hambantota Port (June 5, 2021)

The case of the ninety-nine-year lease of Hambantota Port to China has become the example par excellence of Chinese debt-trap diplomacy. While China’s influence over Sri Lanka has increased in the past decade, this narrative of debt-trap diplomacy is unwarranted for three primary reasons: (1) the Concessional Agreement was not a debt/equity swap arrangement; (2) Sri Lanka’s own government actively solicited the project; and (3) the percentage of Sri Lankan debt owed to China remains a mere fraction of its overall sovereign debt……

China’s role in transatlantic relations: Time for a new strategy (August 24, 2021)

The Cold War-era mindset of good versus evil reemerging due to intensifying rivalry between the US and China is dangerous and self-fulfilling. While many concerns about China are legitimate, both the EU and US should continue to think about a long-term, multifaceted strategy to deal with China’s rise and avoid conflating different issues……

These two African railway megaprojects tell us a lot about China’s development model (March 6, 2021)

To critics, Kenya’s railway project represents another example of Chinese-owed debt and China’s growing influence in Africa. Indeed, many commentators point out that Kenya has an estimated $9 billion in China-financed debt — and note their concerns that a growing number of projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in Africa and elsewhere, may be upending a Western development financing model based on rule of law and high environmental standards. My research on two Chinese railway megaprojects in East Africa — the Nairobi-Mombasa line and Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa-Djibouti project — suggests the fears that China is upending development guidelines might be misplaced. I analyzed primary sources like Chinese government corporate social responsibility (CSR) guidelines and host-country regulations, and interviewed Chinese stakeholders and Ethiopian and Kenyan government officials……

China’s Adaptive Governance: A Tale of Two BRI Railroad Megaprojects in East Africa (January 19, 2021)

While the Chinese government has actively sought to increase the accountability of its economic actors abroad with its own CSR directives, overall, there seems to exist little awareness among Chinese financial institutions and SOEs of these regulations. Accountability mechanisms remain vague and lack legally enforceable obligations. China’s government might be utilizing deliberately ambiguous language to provide its companies maximum flexibility or otherwise write such directives purely to signal its responsible global leadership to external actors. In Kenya and Ethiopia, rather than impose higher standards, Chinese firms overwhelmingly chose to adapt to the host-country environments and their weaker CSR……

African Sovereign Debt at a time of Pandemic: Legal justifications for suspension or cancellation (May 2020)

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is catastrophic for the Global South, especially Africa, and will exacerbate existing financial challenges. The African Union Commission estimates a potential GDP contraction of 4.51%, resulting in the loss of 20 million jobs. The looming debt crisis further hampers the ability to address the impact of the pandemic, with Africa experiencing the fastest growing debt accumulation. Calls for debt relief or cancellation have surfaced, including on the grounds of force majeure, necessity, and the legal principle of rebus sic stantibus. The G20, the IMF and the World Bank are proposing debt cancellation, but the terms remain unclear, leading to discussions about the need for a new debt jubilee or renegotiation based on common principles. The pandemic underscores the urgent need for global cooperation to address economic challenges……

BEIJING, CHINA – APRIL 8: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, third from left, attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on April 8, 2018 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Madoka Ikegami- Pool/Getty Images)

How Will China Shape Global Governance? ChinaFile Conversation (May 9, 2020)

The current system of global governance, shaped by Western powers and liberal ideals, faces challenges as China becomes more assertive in promoting its norms and reshaping multilateral institutions. As the U.S. adopts policies to counter Chinese influence, such as deterrence and containment, divisions among Western allies hinder a unified response. The Trump administration’s rejection of multilateralism, coupled with EU divisions, strains the ability to counter China’s influence on global governance. The COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for international cooperation and presents an opportunity for a new wave of multilateralism. To counterbalance China, the U.S. and the EU must strengthen their alliance, reassess their common identity, and work together to rewrite global rules, recognizing that global governance is a contested issue that is evolving with the emergence of rising powers like China……

Corporate Social Responsibility along the Chinese Financed Railway Mega-Project in East Africa


Chinese corporations are increasingly incorporating corporate social responsibility (CSR) directives into their strategic plans, showing significant advancements in the development and application of CSR practices. However, despite these strides, the largest Chinese State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) in Africa, guided by the principle of non-interference, tend to adjust to the relatively lax regulatory standards of host countries. This adaptation leads to negative externalities, as host states may compromise their own rules to attract essential foreign investment. To address these issues, there is a call for more specific and mandatory CSR approaches, accompanied by appropriate sanctions for companies that fail to meet the required standards……

The Novel Coronavirus and its impact on China-Italy relations, Taihe Institute (March 15, 2020).

While the human and economic costs are enormous, any crisis always accompanies with new opportunities. This pandemic is forcing us to entirely rethink international relations, globalization, and a vulnerable supply chain that we have taken for granted in the past few decades. This crisis could be a wakeup call for politicians and societies to make the necessary investment into future emergency preparedness and strengthen their supply chains. It is also an opportunity for countries to come together and incite another wave of multilateralism. In the case of pandemic, both control measures and civic responsibility are essential to coordinate efforts—not only within a nation, but also among different countries. Each country can decide how to balance the clear benefits of tracking the disease and the invasion of privacy.

Chinese Weaponized Investments and the Rise of Screening Mechanisms in Europe


China has used strategies such as the “Going Out” initiative, “China 2025”, and the “Belt and Road Initiative” to significantly increase its overseas investments, using them as tools to secure access to foreign technology and to assert a leading role in the global economy. In response to China’s strategic investments, which are viewed as a potential threat, there has been a global increase in national security review mechanisms.

Recognizing the changing landscape of global investment and influenced by concerns about China’s tactics, the European Union has adapted its approach and recently established a collective screening mechanism. The impact of China’s global rise is evident in the evolving legal framework for investment.

Conversation on EU-China relations, ChinaFile Conversation (April 2019)

The EU finds itself in the midst of economic and political tensions between China and the U.S. Despite being strategic economic partners, the relationship is perceived as unbalanced, with China posing challenges to EU companies while benefiting from an open EU market. The European Commission recently identified China as a systemic rival, but internal divisions mean the EU lacks a coherent strategy. Powerful EU economies such as Germany and France, which are critical of China, are continuing business as usual, creating a gap between rhetoric and action. To remedy this, the EU must unite to use its market leverage to force China into a more balanced economic relationship.

From Defensive to Assertive: China’s White Paper on Human Rights, Verfassungsblog (March 2019)

In its December 2018 white paper, “Progress in Human Rights over the 40 Years of Reform and Opening Up in China,” the People’s Republic of China reflects on four decades of human rights progress. Highlighting achievements such as lifting 800 million people out of poverty, the paper emphasizes China’s unique path of development. However, critics argue that civil and political rights progress remains limited, citing issues like Uighur detentions in Xinjiang and erosion of autonomy in Hong Kong. The white paper aligns with China’s assertive stance on human rights and its vision of a ‘global community of shared destiny,’ signaling a departure from defensive to proactive engagement.

Will the Belt and Road Initiative change China’s stance on sovereignty and non-interference? GlobTaxGov, Leiden University (Feb. 8, 2019).

China is expanding its interests abroad, and the official language seems clear—non-intervention and sovereignty remain the pillars of Chinese foreign policy but the protection of Chinese interests, investments and people outside of its sovereign borders have become increasingly important as part of the Going Out strategy and the BRI. To compromise part of its doctrine of non-interference might seem a natural step and China is not acting in an exceptional way. Even its financing the debt of another country does not seem to deviate from long-adopted practices. It is essential to remain vigilant about how China will go about protecting its investments, interests, and its nationals abroad. However, one should not immediately assume that the transformation from being inward-looking to being more aggressively outward-looking necessarily means that China will become an imperial power and that it will completely forget the principle of sovereignty and non-intervention, principles themselves that remain very contested and highly political.

In the Eye of the Beholder: The China Model as a discourse, Fairbank Center Blog, Harvard University (May 2018)

Countries, moreover, follow the ‘China Model’ that they want to see, and the China Model ultimately rests in the eye of the beholder. In this sense the China Model is not either failing or succeeding, instead what can fail or succeed are its discursive constructs.

Sogni cosmopoliti: il costituzionalismo globale e le sfide dell’eccezionalismo cinese, 8 Orizzonte Cina5 (2017).

Il sogno cosmopolita occidentale paradossalmente sembra trovare nuove fonti di speranza in oriente. Xi Jinping nel suo discorso a Davos ha riscaldato la coscienza liberale, delusa dai nuovi Stati Uniti di Trump, che invece di essere i portabandiera dei valori liberali, sembrano essersi ritirati in se stessi. Il discorso di Trump alle Nazioni Unite dello scorso settembre e quello di Xi Jinping a Davos sembrano avere invertito i ruoli delle due potenze nell’ordine mondiale. Il primo enfatizza la politica dell’“America first” e il concetto di sovranità, ripetuto quasi con ossessione per ben 21 volte, mentre il secondo parla di globalizzazione e responsabilità. Trump sembra opporsi al processo di integrazione globale in corso già da tempo, e ricusare l’egemonia liberale statunitense, comprese colonne portanti come la promozione dei diritti umani e della democrazia. L’idea di globalismo supportata da Xi, d’altro canto, allontana dalle nostre menti l’immagine di una Cina autoritaria, interessata esclusivamente ai benefici da trarre dal sistema economico internazionale.

Global constitutionalism and Chinese exceptionalism, European University Institute Working Papers (2016).

Scholarship on Global Constitutionalism is often grounded in a normative monism and in a teleological vision of history that perceives the Chinese approach to the global legal order and its underlying normative assumptions as exceptional. In this paper, I argue that thinking Chinese experience simply in terms of exceptionalism or deviance limits our understanding of the assumptions that underpin some of the theories on the current international legal order as well as the Chinese conception of normativity. In the paper, I first look at the Chinese approach towards the elements that constitute the so-called Trinitarian mantra promoted by Global Constitutionalism (human rights, rule of law, democracy). Next, I examine the limits of adopting the notion of ‘exceptionality’ in characterizing Chinese international behavior. In conclusion, I call for a more pluralistic approach.

Il riconoscimento del Market Economy Status alla Cina e l’interpretazione dell’Art. 15 del Protocollo di Accesso: sfide e possibilità per l’Unione Europea, Osservatorio Costituzionale AIC (2016).