As a matter of fact for us, Albanians of the 1960s, China seemed far, far away geographically, and this generation remembers that it took almost three months for a transoceanic cargo ship to make the Albania-China round voyage. The scarce airlines were the fastest transport but it was costly and hardly available at the time. It is therefore not surprising that for many people of the generation of those years the arrival of the first train from ‘distant’ China to the European Continent has made history. In parentheses elderly Albanians still remember the trains brought to us by China in the early 1970s, which seemed like a real miracle, and they can be remembered with nostalgia when the railway system in Albania is now almost non-existent. /CRI
By Genc Mlloja
In addition to the symbolism of the protocol ethics, commemoration of such historical events as the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Italy are occasions that create opportunities for political, intellectual circles and especially for public opinion to analyze the path of bilateral ties in all areas, as well as what is most important to unfold the projections and visions for the future of cooperation in all fields.
It is the duty of the political leadership for the people of the respective countries to be aware of the past, present and future of relations with countries or alliances as well as the benefits of such cooperation. This has become even more imperative especially now that the widespread crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit hard and is threatening people’s lives as November has kicked off with growing fatalities in many countries, including Europe.
China and Italy established diplomatic relations on November 6, 1970, and the context of the ties between these two countries has changed dramatically now in 2020; the establishment of the comprehensive strategic partnership in 2004 marked a milestone of Sino-Italian relations.
Mattarella: Italy-China friendship will live on forever
It is meaningful what President Xi Jinping pointed out in a telephone conversation with the Italian President, Sergio Mattarella on November 4, 2020 on the eve of this anniversary when he said that over the past half century China and Italy have respected and trusted each other, have their mutual benefits as well as have helped and learned from each other. The two sides have built a comprehensive strategic partnership from which both peoples have benefited and set an example for countries with different cultural systems and backgrounds to develop bilateral relations, he said. In face of the sudden outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese and Italian peoples have joined forces in the fight against the disease, setting an example for the international community in overcoming difficulties together, Xi said. Both sides, he continued, should analyze the past, look ahead and on the basis of the past promote the further development of Sino-Italian relations in the new era.
Referring to the 5th plenary session of the 19th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China Xi noted that the proposals of the CPC Central Committee for the compilation of the 14th five-year plan (2021-2025) for the National Economic and Social Development and Long-Term Objectives until 2035 were approved. According to Xi, China will adhere to a new development philosophy, build a new model of development, promote high-quality development and take forward reform and opening up to a higher point. He stressed that China welcomes the participation of various countries, including Italy, in its development and construction in the mutual interest and with results of mutual benefit.
The Chinese president also expressed support for Italy's response to the COVID-19 pandemic based on its national conditions, adding that China is ready to continue to provide assistance to the Italian side, as well as to jointly support the role of the World Health Organization and build a common health community for humanity.
At the outset of the conversation, the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella praised the bilateral relations, drawing attention to the traditional friendship between the two countries, which have a long history. Mattarella expressed his country's willingness to expand cooperation and promote cultural and human exchanges with China. He stressed that Italy is ready to support and participate in the development of Sino-European relations, as well as to cooperate with China on global governance, making a joint contribution to global peace. He noted that the Italian side is proud of the friendly relations between the two countries. "The Italy-China friendship has withstood tests and will live forever."
On the other hand, the Italian head of state called for multilateralism, support for international cooperation, international organizations and initiatives, and said that China's development will create enormous opportunities for Europe-China cooperation, and Italy wants to support and participate actively in the development of this relationship. Mattarella said he appreciated the friendship with President Xi and expected to visit China as soon as possible after the pandemic.
In addition the two Prime Ministers of China and Italy, Li Keqiang and Giuseppe Conte, respectively, exchanged congratulatory messages on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, praising the achievements in the endeavor to find new ways of comprehensive cooperation based on strategic partnership.
"The Italy-China joint fight against COVID-19 has become an example of the strong bond between the two peoples and governments," said the Italian Prime Minister, Conte in a message to his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang.
‘Ally in need’
China's readiness to help Italy at the peak of the pandemic crisis last spring has boosted sympathy for it in the wider Italian public. When Italy, especially its northern areas, was experiencing a tragic situation, almost all EU member states were looking 'inside their fence' and there was widespread public frustration towards the Allies for the 'missing solidarity' with Italy as one of the founders of this Union. The Italian people felt abandoned in the face of the rejection of the Italian government's desperate request for medical equipment made to European countries; senior EU officials have apologized to it realizing that the Italian frustration of abandonment by the allies has left deep marks.
Thus, China's assistance in those difficult times, when it itself was fighting the pandemic with all its might, has transformed its image from a partner into an 'ally in need' in Italy. In mid-March when the pandemic went out of control with hundreds of victims a day in a place of complete isolation China sent more than 31 tonnes of medical equipment to Italy while medical specialists were sent there to help with their experience to restrain the virus spread.
Thus a SWG poll conducted from March 20 to April 12 this year testified that China's popularity in Italian public opinion has increased significantly in the last year. Trieste-based SWG poll cited by the formiche.net portal (21.04.2020) showed that China collected 52 percent of the votes, followed by Russia with 32 percent, and the US 17 percent among the countries considered "friends" by the Italian public opinion. From the 'Silk Road' to COVID-19, Beijing has made its way to Italy, wrote this portal.
A year ago, in March 2019, Italy became the first country of the G-7, the group of the most industrialized countries in the world, to sign a memorandum with China joining the 'One Belt, One Road' initiative well-known as the 'Silk Road'.
By train from Xinzhu to Milan…
An important part of the ‘One Belt, One Road’ project is the railway network and it is meaningful a photo carried by Xinhua news agency with the caption: “Train with 45 wagons loaded with anti-epidemic material departs from Xinzhu Railway Station in Xi'an, northwestern Shaanxi province of China, on August 12, 2020 with destination Milan in Italy “, as it shows the progress that this project has made since its launch at the initiative of President Xi in 2013.
When the idea of establishing rail transport between China and Europe was launched many years ago, few people in the ‘old’ continent had faith in the realization of such an undertaking.