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Udine Festival Puts China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the Spotlight

China’s Belt and Road Initiative comes under the spotlight at this year’s Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy. A documentary film by an Italian journalist Pio d’Emilia will tackle the controversial subject and make its international festival premiere on Friday.

The premiere of “Yi Dai Yi Lu One Belt One Road” comes just a little over a month after Italy—the first G7 country and the third largest euro-zone economy—signed a deal to join China’s ambitious plan to revive the historical Silk Road trade route connecting the Middle Kingdom and the West.

More than 60 countries have already signed up. But Italy’s gesture, made in March when China’s President Xi Jinping visited, was interpreted as a warning sign to other Western powers.

A post-screening discussion will discuss whether the BRI should be seen as a threat or an opportunity. d’Emilia, will be on the panel with Michele Geraci, undersecretary for Economic Development, one of the keenest supporters of China in the Italian political firmament. Representatives of Italy’s commercial sector, will include Michelangelo Agrusti, president of the Pordenone Industrial Union, and Giovanni Da Pozzo, president of the Pordenone and Udine Chamber of Commerce.

The film follows d’Emilia’s journey along a railway route transporting bulk Chinese goods from Sichuan to Italy. He encounters the Chinese people along the route and examines the BRI’s impact on them. The film also includes views from the Italian political and business sectors.

Writing recently on the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan website, d’Emilia suggested that within China, economic and cultural power is considered as more effective than democracy at cementing the Communist Party’s authority and rule.

“Instead of feeding a desire for democracy and undermining the establishment, (economic power) cements the support for the regime, (and is) perceived as the source of security, stability, order and growth,” he wrote.

In the U.S. and parts of West Europe, the BRI’s cheap loans for infrastructure building projects are regarded as both a means of creating fealty to China and possibly causing a debt burden that threatens a country’s economic stability.

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