China’s Italian Ports in the Spotlight: Economic, Social and Geopolitical Aspects

Francesca Spigarelli and Dominique Lepore
Publication Date: 
August 15th, 2023

With the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which positions Italy as a bridge between Europe and the Mediterranean area, Italian ports have been competing to attract container traffic and gain value from the growing trade flows with China. Nevertheless, Chinese investments in Mediterranean ports raise diverse concerns about European competitiveness as well as their geopolitical impact. These issues resurfaced after Italy committed itself to the BRI by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China in March 2019. This chapter--Chapter 5 in Chinese overseas ports in Europe and the Americas (Routledge, 2023) maps and interprets the motivations for China’s involvement in the Italian port systems as well as its subsequent economic, social and geopolitical implications. The analysis is based on the exemplary cases of Genoa, Trieste, and Venice ports. It shows that the Chinese investments may not always be successful due to political opposition, competition among ports, and/or the existence of European alternatives. Even so, when Chinese investors succeed in integrating with their Italian counterparts, as happened in the case of Genoa, they can bring economic and social gains by boosting the port’s domestic and international positioning as well as employment opportunities.

Brief information about Chinese overseas ports in Europe and the Americas can be found here ( with more extensive information here (