Editor’s Note: Both China and Italy have splendid civilizations with a long history. The year 2022 will be the Italy-China Year of Culture and Tourism. What role will culture play in enhancing bilateral relations? David Gosset, the founder of Europe-China Forum, discussed with Michele Cecchi, the former Consul General of Italy in Shanghai. Cecchi was the First Counsellor at the Permanent Representation of Italy to the EU in Brussels. He was awarded the Knight of the Order of Merit of the Republic in 2010.
China Opportunities, hosted by David Gosset, is a global dialogue with senior officials, business elites and distinguished people. The serial interviews are coproduced by China Focus and DG2CI Limited in association with Academy of Contemporary China and World Studies.
David Gosset: One Italian personality, one Frenchman, very close to a portrait painted by Raphael. It seems that we are not in China, but we are in China. And it seems to me that China is an amazing platform for cultural exchanges. Would you agree with this assessment?
Michele Cecchi: Right, David, we are in contemporary China. Shanghai, particularly, is a dynamic workshop of a myriad of interactions between Italy and China in culture, in university, economy, trade, design, against the background of more than 2,000 years of exchanges and friendship between our two countries. Shanghai is a crucial hub also for culture, not only it is the place where traditionally China meets the world, but it is today also the best example of interconnection with the global community, a place where new ideas and talents meet. There is a great awareness here about the importance of enhancing cultural exchanges. That’s why Italy and China are working together on very ambitious cooperation projects on culture, also in the year of 2022, Italy-China Year of Culture and Tourism.
David Gosset: Thank you very much. You represent a very important country, Italy, and this year, Italy chairs the G20. We have had in this framework, a very important meeting of the Ministers of Culture of the G20 Group. They had a declaration on the role of culture. Would you say that this declaration is significant?
Michele Cecchi: Right, David. Under the Italian G20 Presidency, for the first time, the Ministers of Culture of the G20 countries have met. Prime Minister Draghi has participated in the opening event. At the end of this meeting, a declaration, the Rome Declaration has been adopted. It is not only important as a symbol, but it provides a comprehensive agenda for a global approach on culture, based on some very important pillars, such as the protection and promotion of creative industry, also as an engine to promote and foster sustainable and balanced growth, the capacity building through training and tackling climate change through culture. So, I believe that this is a symbolic and historical moment for the G20.
David Gosset: This is indeed very significant. Now we live in a world which is very complex, in which divisive factors are at work, are at play. But would you say that culture unites people, unites countries?
Michele Cecchi: Well, culture is the result of continuous interaction between people. Maybe it is, I would say, culture is the most resilient field of human interrelations. Today, when we read the newspapers, we watch television, we are confronted with more and more bad news, and those bad news are linked also to the lack of knowledge, the lack of mutual understanding, the lack of international cooperation and of trust. On the other hand, we have also good news which are linked to the progresses in science, and to sharing of knowledge. Today, for instance, this exhibition, the Accademia Carrara exhibition here at the Bund One Art Museum is good news. As Maestro Claudio Abbado, the famous Italian conductor, once has said, culture is a primary and precious resource like water, and whenever we interact with the others, we build aqueducts.
David Gosset: Clearly, today, Raphael unites you and myself, but I have seen with my own eyes that Raphael unites the people of Italy, the people of China, the people of Europe, the people of China, and actually the people of the world. Beauty elevates us, and beauty unifies us. Thank you very much for what you are doing to deepen the relations between Italy and China, between Europe and China. Thank you very much, Grazie.