Beijing — Chinese President Xi Jinping heads to Europe on Thursday as the continent is divided over his cherished Belt and Road trade infrastructure project and under US pressure to shun telecoms giant Huawei. Xi will start his trip in Italy before heading to Monaco — the first visit by a Chinese president to the posh principality — and end his five-day journey in France. His visit comes a week after the EU released a 10-point plan outlining a shift to more assertive relations with Beijing, warning that China is a “rival” to the bloc as well as its biggest trading partner. But Xi is expected to secure a nonbinding agreement for Italy to join the $1-trillion Belt and Road Initiative. China has financed maritime, rail and road projects in Asia, Africa and Europe through the initiative, but critics warn that it mainly benefits Chinese firms while setting up a “debt trap” in financially vulnerable countries. Italy would be the first Group of Seven nation to join the ambitious venture, r...

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