The Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013 would provide unprecedented opportunities to boost cultural exchanges between Italy and China, officials and experts from both countries said during a conference here on September 24.
The event -- hosted by the Western Returned Scholars Association within the 15th edition of "China in the 21st Century" Forum -- addressed the history of the Sino-Italian relationship, and the best ways to bring it forward in the light of a new "Silk Road spirit."
Dating back thousands of years, cultural contacts between China and Italy provided "a relevant heritage" on which contemporary ties were allowed to flourish, according to officials.
"When the ancient Rome was in full bloom, more than two thousand years ago, the Chinese civilization was also at its peak," Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of China Chen Zhu told the audience.
Today, the Belt and Road Initiative -- comprising the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road -- aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes. It would be be developed in the same spirit of cooperation.
Once Europe and Asia have come closer through the Belt and Road Initiative, intermediate countries along the path should also benefit in terms of development, visibility, and stability, former Italian Ambassador to China Alberto Bradanini said.
"I wish Italy and China together will encourage cultural exchange projects in those intermediate countries, which are little known today, and yet have plenty of historic sites and monuments in need of investment," Bradanini said.
Chen recalled some 20,000 Chinese students have come to Italy, and over 5,500 Italian peers have studied in China, since after the Marco Polo Program was launched in 2005, and the Turandot Project for art education in 2009.
"In 2016 alone, more than 4,800 young Chinese came to Italy for studying," he pointed out.
Alessandra Lavagnino, professor of Chinese language and culture at the University in Milan and co-director of its Confucius Institute, praised the crucial value China gives to culture.
"I am admired by the great respect Chinese society pays to knowledge and study, which are meant not only as tools for improving individual conditions, but society as a whole," she said.
Cultural exchanges were by no means secondary elements in the perspective of the Belt and Road Initiative, the scholar underlined.
"Culture is what gives us the wider scope of a common project, and allow us to find common strategies in which our own (respective) peoples could do their best," she told Xinhua on the sidelines of the conference.
"I think for example to a strengthened Sino-Italian cooperation in the visual arts, and in literature and poetry..." Lavagnino said. "All of the big issues related to the human being in our contemporary society need to be addressed, and our views exchanged, and I do believe Chinese and Italians still have a lot to say to each other."
(Xinhua News Agency September 24, 2017)