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DIPLOMACY
from issue no. 06/07 - 2010

ROME SEEN FROM BEIJING. Forty years of friendship

“To talk to one another sincerely, to listen to each other”


“Those who govern should be able to listen in a sincere way to what others have to say, instead of always resorting to actions which betray a temptation to hegemony”. Thus the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China in Italy


by Ding Wei


Ambassador Ding Wei [© Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Italy]

Ambassador Ding Wei [© Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Italy]

Like any new ambassador at the beginning of his posting I too am accumulating impressions. And the first was very strong. As soon as I set foot in Italy I was enveloped, as it were, by its long history, by its splendid culture, in a word, by its tradition. In art and architecture, law, science and in astronomy, in religion, your country has given a lot to the whole world. I am therefore proud to be here.
Secondly, the most striking characteristic of the Italians is their creativity. That’s why the design and construction for the Italian Pavilion at the Expo in Shanghai is a supreme work of innovation, and not by chance among the most visited, with over three million admissions: despite the torrid climate and the three hours of waiting that are sometimes needed before getting in...
My third impression is that the Italians are a people in search of beauty and elegance, of style, of design, and are in the vanguard. Because of this many Italian products are known to the Chinese: they recognize in Italians a trend towards the exceptional, that we Chinese must study and learn.
Generous, friendly, seeking a beautiful life: that is the people who inhabit your country. And who express all these qualities in the acceptance of foreigners. What I have so far perceived must, I believe, be made known to others, to my fellow Chinese in the first place.
This is made easier by the discovery that the relations between your and my country are good at all levels of expertise and people, from the simplest to the highest.
In the administration of foreign affairs, on the bilateral as on the multilateral level, numerous positions are shared. Similarly, cooperation in economic exchange is intensifying and last year, even in the midst of the financial crisis, the exchange reached 31.2 billion dollars. Italian companies have already been working in China for some time and now the flow of Chinese investments into your country has begun, and according to the statistics of our Development Ministry Italian exports to China, the only case among the countries who are recipients of Italian goods, was growing even last year, despite the crisis. In the first three months of this year the trade between China and Italy rose by 64 per cent, a figure to encourage all to achieve the planned level of 40 billion dollars.
This year also marks the start of the Year of Chinese Culture in Italy, and is even more significant because it coincides with the fortieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Italy. We must celebrate it. In 1970 annual trade was 120 million dollars, and over forty years this figure has been multiplied four hundred times: now what was traded in a year in 1970 is traded in one day.
Italy is also one of the main destinations for Chinese tourists: 400 thousand of them came last year, and the number of Chinese who daily visit your country is greater than the sum of Chinese tourists in Italy and Italian tourists in China on the eve of diplomatic relations. We acknowledge with pride and enthusiasm that in four decades momentous changes have occurred in bilateral relations.
To celebrate all this the Italian and Chinese leaderships have agreed on the desirability of inaugurating this Year of Chinese Culture in Italy. Thanks to the Year of Italian Culture in China in 2006 Chinese admirers of your country increased in number; our hope is that now the same will happen among Italians, who we hope will come to know our country in all its tradition and its modernity, and thus love it. In October, our political leaders will arrive in Italy from Beijing for the opening of the Year of Chinese Culture which has more than a hundred events on its agenda.
Quite definitely, there is friendship between us, and thanks to what the tradition of relations between Italy and China already represents, I am confident that our cooperation will become even more vital and visible.
In the Year of Chinese Culture we would like to announce that, similar to Italy, China is a country of long history, splendid culture and millennial tradition, and that the Chinese are an industrious, intelligent, peace-loving people; we want peace in a harmonious world, and initiatives that strengthen the bonds between peoples. We also would like to make it known that there are still many spaces open in economic cooperation, and they can bear more fruit. The message we deliver is that the Chinese are eager for Italian culture, want to know more about it, and we hope that the same applies to Italians in relation to China.
Chinese President Hu Jintao 
with President Giorgio Napolitano 
at the Presidential Palace on 6 July 2009 during the State visit [© AFP/Getty Images]

Chinese President Hu Jintao with President Giorgio Napolitano at the Presidential Palace on 6 July 2009 during the State visit [© AFP/Getty Images]

In Italy there is another small State called Vatican City, the seat of government of the Catholic Church. Breathing Italy one comes into contact with its Catholic tradition. In China, we already know much about Catholic culture. Which, like other major cultures, has great influence in many countries, while the Catholic faith, like all great religions, has played its role in the evolution of our world. Freedom of worship is ratified in our Constitution. In China various religious faiths have developed, and many believers of Buddhism, Islam, Catholicism and Protestant Christianity live there. The spread of Catholicism has many centuries of history, and it must be recognized that in the last fifty-sixty years, it has enjoyed fine development in our country. Ingrained in the Chinese is the principle, which we reaffirm, of loving the homeland, loving the Church and managing religious affairs in an independent fashion. The Catholic faithful in China are now more or less six million, and in many cities, including the major ones such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, there are several Catholic churches. We believe that in the future the Catholic Church will continue to develop in a healthy and stable way. We are animated by good will and eager to improve relations with the Holy See.
Your magazine is directed by President Giulio Andreotti, an old friend of China, a statesman who merits full respect from the Chinese. He has extensively studied domestic and international politics, and with these resources is capable of offering unique observations. Such as that whereby the leadership of countries must be able to listen to the interlocutor’s arguments and not just give voice always and only to their own. This is an essential criterion for maintaining good relations in the international community, and should be observed ever more. Let’s look at how many problems have arisen in the course of the history of peoples simply because of misunderstandings: those who govern should be able to listen in a sincere way to what others have to say, instead of always resorting to actions which betray a temptation to hegemony. On this principle – talking to one another sincerely, listening to each other – Chinese leaders find great harmony with President Andreotti, and opportunities for synergy.


(Conversation with Giovanni Cubeddu revised by the author)


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