Opinion: The ancient Silk Road destination shines in the new era
Updated 21:57, 26-Sep-2018
CGTN's Wang Naiqian

Editor's note: This article is based on an interview with Daniele Lazzeri, the chairman of the Italian think tank, Il Nodo di Gordio. The article reflects the expert's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

The 17th Western China International Fair (WCIF) is being held Sept. 20-24 in Chengdu, southwest China. As a window of the further opening-up of western China and a platform for promoting China's cooperation with other countries, the WCIF attracts participants from more than 90 countries and regions.

Italy is this year's guest country of honor. As the destination of the ancient Silk Road, Italy is likely to become the first country in G7 to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China along the modern Silk Road as Luigi Di Maio, the newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Italy claimed in his China visit.

According to the South China Morning Post, Di Maio expressed his strong will to strengthen cooperation with China under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Di Maio said that he hoped to complete the MOU with China in 2018.

Italian Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio speaking during a news conference in Cairo, August 29, 2018 /VCG Photo

Italian Deputy PM Luigi Di Maio speaking during a news conference in Cairo, August 29, 2018 /VCG Photo

Since China and Italy established diplomatic relations in 1970, their bilateral relations and trade cooperation have been fast-growing. For years, China has been Italy's largest trading partner in Asia.

According to China's Foreign Ministry, the bilateral trade between China and Italy reached 49.6 billion US dollars in 2017, a year-on-year increase of 5.1 percent. China's exports to Italy grew 10.5 percent while China's import of Italian products increased 22.2 percent compared to the previous year.

Daniele Lazzeri, chairman of think tank Il Nodo di Gordio, pointed out that China and Italy enjoyed great potentials under the BRI. He cited the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road as an example.

According to Lazzeri, the Maritime Silk Road will help the Mediterranean areas regain the glory it has lost for centuries; therefore it is an important chance for all the coastal countries involved.

Massimo De Andreis, general director of SRM (a Center for Economic Studies and Researches in Italy) indicated in a press conference that the importance of the Mediterranean in international sea trading areas has elevated significantly in recent years, a development which can be attributed to the efforts of the BRI. BRI plays an irreplaceable role in boosting Mediterranean maritime transportation and brings huge opportunities to Italian ports.

A view of Port of Genova at Genoa, Italy /VCG Photo 

A view of Port of Genova at Genoa, Italy /VCG Photo 

The annual report of the Italian maritime economy indicates that China is one of Italy's major partners on maritime import and export, which amounted to nearly 30 billion euros in 2017.

The report also forecasts that new investment will be implemented along the BRI and Italy, because of its geographic position and logistic and port infrastructure, will play a vital role in the initiative.

Lazzeri also stressed that closer cultural relations between the two countries could make a positive contribution to deepening the already excellent trade relations. "The history shows us that culture is one of the most efficient tools to build a brighter and prosperous future," said Lazzeri.

Italian media reported that the number of Chinese students studying in Italy has increased rapidly in a decade. In 2006, Chinese students occupied only one percent of the foreign students who studied in Italy, while the number has reached 9.2 percent in 2018.

Italian people also show a growing interest in Chinese culture, especially in learning Chinese. According to the Fondazione Intercultura, an Italian foundation, about 279 middle school and elementary schools in Italy had set up Chinese course by the end of 2017.

Michele Geraci, Italian economic development undersecretary, has been living in China for ten years and used to be an assistant professor of finance at the University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping noted at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on May 14, 2017, that "friendship, which derives from close contact between the people, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations." As closer relations grow between the people of the two countries, a new chapter of China-Italy ties is there to be unfolded.

China was the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, and Italy was the destination. Now Italy is also the intersection of the land and sea route of the modern Silk Road. Will the destination shine in the new era? We will wait and see.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com.)