Bilateral relations between China and Italy date back to Imperial China and Ancient Rome but the ties between Italy and the People's Republic of China only formally began on 6 November 1970. News of Italy's recognition of the People's Republic of China and consequent breaking of formal relations with the Republic of China on Taiwan spurred other European countries such as Austria and Belgium to consider similar moves. Italian Foreign Minister Pietro Nenni presented the proposal for the recognition of China in January 1969. The Italian Communist Party had invited Chinese representatives to attend their 1969 party congress; however, the Chinese side declined the invitation. The United States maintained a major influence in commercial relations between the two countries; for example, Italy had to seek U.S. approval to sell eighty dump trucks to China in July 1970. The two countries exchanged ambassadors in February of the following year.
To this day, China and Italy participate in high-level political exchanges. In September 2005, Chinese Defense Minister Cao Gangchuan and Italian Deputy Defense Minister Salvatore Cicu expressed their hope for closer military cooperation between the two countries.