Ettore Francesco Sequi talks about innovation, technology, and increasing bilateral cooperation with China.

By Zhang Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2016-3-20 17:08:01

Ettore Francesco Sequi, the new Italian Ambassador to China, thinks Italy has many things in common with China. Photo: Courtesy of Ettore Francesco Sequi

It's been just a few months since Ettore Francesco Sequi, the newly-appointed Italian Ambassador to China, arrived in Beijing. Desirous of taking his country's bilateral relationship with China to a new level during his term, he is enthusiastic about furthering the mutual understanding between the two nations.

"Italy is not only good food and fashion but also technology and innovation," stressed the ambassador, who recently sat down for an interview with the Global Times (GT), and shared his opinion on many topics.

GT: What role will the year 2016 play in the China-Italy relationship?

2016 will be a crucial year for our bilateral relations. It is the first year of our path toward 2020, which marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Italy and China. So in 2016, we are going to make the first step in our five-year long journey. We have named it the "Road to 50." In the next five years, we will work to upgrade our strategic partnership with more frequent high-level exchanges and more in-depth cooperation in a wide range of areas where we've found significant complementarities.

GT: What three phrases could one use to exemplify the similarities between China and Italy? In what way will these similarities help enhance interaction between the two nations in the future?

Italy and China have many traits in common: cultural heritage, the vitality and curiosity of their people, and a positive attitude, just to name a few. As two cultural superpowers, the two countries' mutual admiration for each other is a strong basis for any interaction. At present, Italy and China are both readjusting to a "new normal." This is a challenge but also an opportunity, because it will spur innovation and higher levels of efficiency, and this will definitely provide more soil for cooperation. Italian companies are very interested in China, and in Italy, we're welcoming a surge in Chinese investments. We are ready to work on more mutually beneficial opportunities in this sense.

GT: Would you like to share some of your insights on innovation and our two nations' cooperation on this topic?

The Chinese government's new five-year program calls for China's growth to be more quality-oriented and to expand the service sector. Italy can be a perfect partner to accompany this transition. A case in point is the health sector. I take great pride in mentioning that according to influential international surveys Italy's healthcare system ranks the second in the world thanks to its efficient allocation of resources. Italy has predicted China's interest in this field and has already signed a three-year action plan for cooperation with China. We also want to explore possible collaborations in other fields that present the best opportunities for innovation and scientific advancements, like space exploration, nanotechnology or research and development in the field of new materials.

GT: Salone del Mobile, or the Milan Design Week, will hold a chapter show in Shanghai this year. What is the meaning of locating it in China?

This is a unique opportunity for both the Italian industry and the Chinese market. On the one hand, the Italian industry will have the opportunity to gain a foothold in the Chinese market, which demands high-quality design products and craftsmanship. On the other hand, the Chinese market will experience the Italian ability to combine tradition and innovation. The growth of the Italian furniture sector in China reflects a Chinese market whose consumers are increasingly sophisticated and interested in quality products.

GT: What is Italy's strategy toward Chinese tourists? Any updates on visa policies during your term?

From the end of March to mid-April, Italy will open 11 new visa application centers, for a total of 15 operational centers covering almost all of China. Italy strongly believes in an efficient and customer-friendly visa issuing process as the first welcome to Chinese travelers. In 2015, Italy issued 541,000 visas in China, an increase of more than 30 percent [over 2014].

GT: What do you think about Chinese people's sense of fashion?

According to international surveys, Chinese consumers will buy more than 44 percent of the world's luxury goods by 2020. Certainly, the fashion industry is putting down roots in the Chinese popular culture. The next decade will be the golden era for luxury here.

Important Italian brands have become essential status symbols. But Chinese designers are also emerging worldwide, which is testified by the current fashion weeks, which increasingly feature Chinese designers or China-inspired collections.

GT: Talking about diversity, tell us something beyond Rome, Venice, Milan and Florence.

Well, as a Sardinian, I will of course start from my hometown! Sardinia is one of the most attractive holiday destinations among Italians, with amazing sea and beaches, not to talk about food!

The Southern region of Italy is also a must-see. For instance, in Sicily, you will find several important Greek ruins as it was home to a large Greek settlement dating back to the 8th century BC. Many UNESCO world heritage sites are in southern Italy, where you're more likely to see influences from ancient Rome and northern Africa.

I would also suggest a visit to Pompeii, a city frozen in time when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, blanketing the area in a thick layer of ash and debris until it was discovered again in 1748. If you venture into this splendid city, you will see its frescoed villas, and get a rare glimpse of daily life nearly 2000 years ago.

GT: Two decades ago, the Italian football team was the favorite among Chinese fans. Now there are more teams like Argentina, Germany, and Spain, etc. In what way do you think the Italian football culture can still influence China?

An intense reform is taking place in China to make football a more widespread and popular sport, while ensuring that Chinese football can rise to a new level in the international arena. Italy definitely has a very strong tradition and experience in football, and we are willing to cooperate with China for the local development of this sport. Besides training initiatives for Chinese football players to be trained in soccer schools organized by Italian football clubs, we are also finding ways to attract more Italian coaches and managers to China. They could then follow in the footsteps of famous and successful figures such as Marcello Lippi and Alberto Zaccheroni, who has just been appointed head coach of Beijing Guoan.

GT: For those Chinese who are extremely interested in Italian culture, do you have any suggestions on what books to read, movies to watch or events to participate in?

We've recently mourned the loss of one of the most well-known international intellectuals, Italian author and philosopher Umberto Eco, who passed away last February 19. In order to honor his legacy, we announced the endowment of an annual award in his name, as "Eco China." It will be an annual literary competition for Chinese people who are interested and want to contribute to the Italian culture.

I take this opportunity to suggest you a contemporary Italian writer, Michela Murgia, who is about to arrive in Beijing for a series of events. Her novel Accabadora won the 2010 Campiello Award, one of the most important in Italy. Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages.

Newspaper headline: Meet the new Italian Ambassador

Posted in: Press Release, Enterprise

blog comments powered by Disqus