Italy is planning to officially announce its support for China's Belt and Road Initiative this month, the Financial Times reported Wednesday. It would be the first endorsement by a G-7 nation, the report pointed out.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's regional infrastructure investment program is widely seen as Beijing's attempt to expand its influence globally through the construction of a network of land and maritime routes across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.
Critics say that through the project, China forces developing nations to take on high debt burdens while benefiting Chinese companies which are often state-owned.
In the last few months, Malaysia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sierra Leone have either canceled or stepped back from their prior commitments to Belt and Road projects.