Director of Euro Intelligence think-tank Wolfgang Munchau tweeted: “A new cold war between US and China that will be a huge problem for EU. Very hard to see that EU unity can prevail. Italy is most likely to align with China.”
The EU has not developed a common position on how to approach its foreign policy with China.
Mr Munchau said: “China has shown remarkable skill in playing EU countries off against one another, for example in the race to develop 5G mobile networks.
“But this is just the beginning.
“China is well on the way to emerge as the most influential external power for the EU.”
However, Germany has taken steps to impose restrictions on possible Chinese take-overs of its high-tech sector and in other industries.
Mr Mucnhau describes how this was triggered by a Chinese takeover of Germany’s leading robotics group, Kuka, in 2016.
China has heavily invested in the long-term sustainable development of electric vehicles, forcing Germany to play catch-up in this strategic area.
In Italy’s case, China has plans to make huge investments in the port of Trieste on Italy’s Adriatic coast, a difficult financial prize for the Italian’s to turn down after being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
On top of this Mr Munchau describes how the olive branch from China could easily be given to the countries competitors across the Adriatic, such as Croatia.
The analyst from Euro Intelligence describes how the “indirect effect of the Belt and Road will be to shift Europe’s political gravity back eastward”.
Mr Munchau added how a recent “Italian poll sees China as the most friendly foreign country, followed by Russia”.
In comparison, Germany is considered the least friendly foreign power, followed by France.
The Euro Intelligence analyst added that twenty years of eurozone membership have taken Italians to a point where they consider China as their most important strategic partner.
Mr Munchau said: “It is also an astonishing failure of the EU to have let it come to that.”
He added: “The The risk for the EU is not outright disintegration, but progressive loss of cohesion.
“The damage done to the bloc through Brexit will be nothing compared with the damage Italy and other countries could unleash by opening up to China.”