On Monday, August 25, the Italian stock market (Piazza Affari) plumbed down roughly 6 percent following the rapid decrease of the Chinese stock market of about 8.5 percent. Despite its geographic distance, China is progressively closer to Europe. The fluctuation of the stock market is just one of the many phenomenons resulting from the increase of relationship intensity between the two regions.

Recently, on Aug. 5, CGIA (Associazione Artigiani Piccole Imprese) of Mestre published an annual report on the presence of Chinese investors and small businesses in Italy.

The study highlights the very rapid growth of Chinese business up an astounding 39.2 percent over the course of 4 years from 2010 to 2014. Paolo Zabeo from CGIA points out: “Now a significant part of the businesses in Italy are led by Chinese people and they represent very strong competition for Italian business owners. These become very tired after long and difficult years of struggle, and they are gradually throwing in the towel, creating even more space for foreigners businessmen. The aforementioned phenomenon is greatly shaping the commercial aspect of Italian cities.”

The report shows that Moroccans have so far established themselves more than anybody else, with 74,520 shops and businesses of various sizes. Romanians follow with 70,104 shops and businesses. Chinese recently conquered the third place of the ranking with 69,401 for-profit organizations. While Moroccans and Romanians are leading the chart due in large part to geographical proximity to Italy, the situation with China is radically different. Their strong economic power has allowed them to make targeted investments, mainly taking over businesses with financial difficulties and heavily investing in them.

Chinese have invested in all kinds of small businesses in Italy, from merchandise stores to food markets, for a total of 24,571 business activities. They have invested in manufacturing, opening 18,450 companies (mainly clothing) and they also have opened restaurants and hotels for a total of 14,800 independent for-profit companies.

The beauty industry is experiencing rapid growth; there are 4,100 units. This is the sector that between 2013 and 2014 grew the most, approximately 22 percent.

Another very interesting fact about Chinese entrepreneurship in Italy is that the amount of financial resources that Chinese entrepreneurs send back to China is rapidly decreasing. In the past 3 years it decreased almost 70 percent. In 2012 Chinese sent back 2.1 billion euros, in 2013 1.1 billion euros, and in 2014 880 million.

As shown in the document published by CGIA, 61 percent of Chinese entrepreneurs are located mainly in 4 regions of the peninsula: Lombardy with 15,252 enterprises, Tuscany with 12,310, Veneto with 8,360, and Emilia Romagna with 6,960.

By Cesare Baccheschi