China and Italy have stuck together through thick and thin and are now embarking on a new journey hand in hand
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Italy. It will be remembered as marking a special chapter in the history of China-Italy ties.
The sudden outbreak of the novel coronavirus has bonded the two countries closely together with respect for life and science and emphasis on cooperation in the fight against the virus.
As the Chinese ambassador to Italy, I have in person witnessed the mutual concern and support between the two peoples during these difficult days, and I have been deeply touched by the fact that although the two countries are far away from each other geographically, the hearts of the two peoples are closely linked.
When the Chinese people were in the midst of their tough battle against the virus, we received precious support from various walks of life in Italy. President Sergio Mattarella hosted a special concert that was broadcast live on national TV channel. When the music of Honghu Waters, Wave upon Wave, a Chinese folk song, began, it was a welcome cheer and support for those fighting against the virus in Hubei province, where the battle took place. Officials and citizens, governments and companies stood up one after another to express sincere wishes and support for China. Several heart-warming videos saying "Hubei stay strong" and "China stay strong" went viral on social media.
When the virus started to rage in Italy, China lost no time in returning the goodwill and extending a helping hand. In the span of just one week, President Xi Jinping wrote a letter of sympathy to President Mattarella, exchanged a phone call with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and stressed that China would offer Italy the most needed materials within its capacity. Three batches of medical experts flew from China to Italy, going straight into the hard-hit northern regions, fighting alongside their Italian counterparts and sharing their expertise and experience, and bringing with them large quantities of masks, ventilators and other urgently-needed medical resources. Many localities and companies in China as well as social organizations and Chinese communities in Italy donated to Italy in money and in kind. A pupil in Wuhan wrote a letter to the embassy donating all his New Year gift money as a contribution to help Italy in its fight against the virus.
I have a special story to share here. A hospital in Rome admitted an old couple from Wuhan who were confirmed to be infected with the virus. Experts of China and Italy held several tele-consultations and made a detailed treatment plan. They fully recovered after several months. Upon returning back to China, they donated $40,000 to the hospital for research on the virus. This is one of the numerous touching stories of the two peoples fighting together.
It needs to be mentioned that although the pandemic has severely impacted the world economy and global trade, pragmatic cooperation between China and Italy have never ceased. Even during the height of their respective struggles, an agreement on importing Italian rice and beef to China was signed, giving more Chinese consumers the chance to try Italian farm produce. Chinese companies invested in the so-called Motor Valley of the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy to boost the development of a new-type of auto industry. China and Italy held an online promotion event for the 3rd China International Import Expo and attracted nearly 150 Italian companies. Italy and a famous Chinese e-commerce platform signed an agreement to bring more products that are made in Italy to the Chinese market. The two countries put in place despite all kinds of obstacles an air corridor to facilitate the resumption of work and production and economic and trade interactions.
The virus is still spreading around the world. It has become the largest global public health crisis since the end of World War II. To face the common enemy of mankind, countries should respect science instead of believing in rumors, and seek solidarity and cooperation instead of blaming others.
Faced with once-in-a-century changes, China and Italy, ancient civilizations at the two ends of the Silk Road, shoulder the new mission of connecting Europe and Asia and pursuing well-being for the world. The vicissitudes of the past five decades have made China-Italy relations stronger and steadier; joint efforts to fight against the virus have put bilateral cooperation on a more solid foundation. It's my firm conviction that China and Italy will continue to work together with mutual respect for win-win results, give full play to each other's potential and strengths, promote steady growth of the comprehensive strategic partnership in post-pandemic era and together make new contributions to world peace and development.