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Italian president's China visit to strengthen cooperation / by Elenoire Laudieri Di Biase, February 22, 2017 Adjust font size:

The forthcoming official visit to China by Italian President Sergio Mattarella marks a very significant moment in the long-standing and thriving relations between the two countries.

Though not comparable in size, population or economic power, China and Italy share many historical and cultural affinities. The Republic of Italy and the People's Republic of China were born just three years apart, in 1946 and 1949, respectively. Both republics are the offspring of two ancient civilizations that had a strong influence on other cultures. Fifty years ago, Italy did what China has done in more recent times, transforming itself in less than two decades from a largely agricultural backwater into a most dynamic industrial nation. The life of the Italian and Chinese people is equally centered around the family, and finally, large numbers of Italian and Chinese migrants have historically settled in many countries of the world while preserving their original customs and traditions.

President Mattarella's trip comes at a time when China and Italy's role in the international order face unprecedented challenges. He is the third Italian president to visit China after Sandro Pertini in 1981, when China was about to launch a radical plan to liberalize its economy, and Giorgio Napolitano in 2010 on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

President Mattarella will be in China from Feb. 21 to 26, and after meeting President Xi Jinping in Beijing he is scheduled to visit Shanghai, Chongqing and Xi'an. Italy and China are united by ever-growing economic, scientific and cultural cooperation, which in the last five years has been boosted by a great number of official visits and meetings at the highest institutional levels.

Since the appointment of Ambassador Ettore Sequi as head of the Italian Embassy in Beijing, the China-Italy comprehensive strategic partnership has become "increasingly ambitious and increasingly concrete" as Mr. Sequi and the Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PRC with responsibility for European Affairs Liu Haixing jointly described the status of the relations between the two countries at a recent meeting.

Both countries have intensified cooperation in five priority fields, including energy conservation and environment protection, agriculture, sustainable urbanization, health care, aviation and aerospace. The next stage is to align China's Belt and Road initiative with Italy's national development strategies, integrate "Made in China 2025" with Italy's "Industry 4.0," and connect China's "Internet plus" strategy with Italy's technological innovation plan.

As far as cultural relations are concerned, China and Italy are carrying forward a diversified program of activities aimed to enhance mutual understanding and traditional friendship between the two peoples. Italy is a major EU country with worldwide influence and China stands ready to heighten communication and coordination with Italy on the reform of the U.N. Security Council, climate change, sustainable development and other issues.

The Italian president visit couldn't find a better climate in the relations between China and Italy. Both countries are committed to working together for a harmonious relationship and for a peaceful and prosperous future for all of humanity.

The author is a sinologist from the University of Ca Foscari, Venice, Italy & Melbourne University, Australia. She is an expert on intercultural diplomacy and writes for the NATO Foundation as well on China.

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