Keynote panelists at the ChinaEU Digital Silk Road Roundtable: from left to right, Deborah Bergamini, Member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Luigi Gambardella, President of ChinaEU, H.E. Li Ruiyu, Chinese Ambassador to Italy, Massimo Gaiani, Director General for Globalization and Global Matters at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
中国驻意大利大使李瑞宇，意大利外交部全球化与全球事务司司长 Massimo Gaiani
On 25th October, the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Italy hosted ChinaEU’s roundtable on “the Digital Silk Road, an opportunity to strengthen cooperation between Italy and China”. The event was part of the Diplomacy Festival, a week-long of events supported by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and centered around the role of Rome in the international arena.
Held the day after the conclusion of the 19th Party Congress, the most important historic moment in China’s political calendar which reconfirmed the leadership of President Xi Jinping for a new five-year term, this roundtable was an opportunity for prominent representatives of the Chinese and Italian telecom and Internet industry, the government and the authorities to compare notes on how to increase economic cooperation in the digital sector.
Luigi Gambardella, President of ChinaEU, opened the works stressing the significance of working together to promote new generation networks. He mentioned some statistics that speak alone about the importance of China as a strategic partner for Italy in digital infrastructure upgrade: 930 million 4G users, 330 million fixed-line broadband users, 272 million fiber access users by 2016, and an estimated half billion 5G subscribers by 2023.
H.E. Li Ruiyu, Chinese Ambassador to Italy, delivering a keynote speech at the ChinaEU Digital Silk Road Roundtable
China has clear ambitions and enjoys the privilege of fixing and ultimately meeting long-term goals of five years or even decades, which is what is needed to drive a sustainable industrial policy. The Belt and Road project is an example of these long-term strategies which takes very high priority in China’s agenda to the extent that it has recently gained a reference in the revised Constitution of the country. Ambassador Li Ruiyu, who was present throughout all the discussions, recalled an important message delivered by President Xi Jinping at the May High-Level Belt & Road Forum, when he called countries to strengthen innovation-driven development and digital cooperation to promote digital infrastructure construction, big data, cloud computing, smart city building, and cross-border e-commerce. Ambassador Li concluded his keynote speech citing an old Chinese saying: ‘The wheel of the history will only favor the determined, hard-working and persevering ones, it will not wait for those who hesitate, slack away or are afraid of difficulties’.
Keynote speaker Deborah Bergamini, Member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, speaking at the Roundtable
A similar call for action was launched by Deborah Bergamini, Member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, who acknowledge her frustration to work in a system – the Italian country – which has many opportunities in front of itself, but struggles to timely grasp them.
意大利议员Deborah Bergamini提出了类似的行动呼吁，她坦承了在一个意大利这样一个国家体系里工作的挫败感 – 有很多机会摆在自己面前，但是很难及时把握它们。
China and the digital revolution are two big opportunities that now Italy, and Europe as a whole, are confronted with. The roundtable dedicated two hours analyzing concrete initiatives and practical modalities through which such theoretical opportunities can translate into business results and economic growth for the two countries.
Edward Chan, CEO of Huawei Italy, speaking on Huawei promoting digital cooperation and digital education
Edward Chan, CEO of Huawei Italy, listed a series of initiatives the leading telecom vendor launched in the past few years to foster digital cooperation. In 2016, it joined hands with Nokia, Ericsson and the automotive industry to accelerate the development of the infrastructure needed for self-driving cars, working both horizontally and vertically on 5G trials. He stressed the importance of creating partnerships not just with the industry but also with governmental bodies and universities to foster digital education. As part of its efforts to address the e-skills gap existing today, Huawei has initiated a project called ‘Seeds for the future’, an elite ICT training program for young Europeans in the form of a study trip to the company’s Chinese headquarters.
华为意大利首席执行官Edward Chan列举了过去几年来华为这一业界领先的电信供应商为推动数字合作所推出的一系列举措。 2016年，华为与诺基亚、爱立信和汽车行业联手，加快自动驾驶所需基础设施的发展，从横向和纵向两个方向进行5G试点工作。他强调不仅要与业界建立合作关系，还要与政府机构和大学建立伙伴关系，以推动数字教育。为努力解决当今数字技能短缺的问题，华为开展了一项名为“未来种子”的计划，这是一个面向欧洲年轻人的精英ICT培训项目，通过组织对华为公司中国总部的考察的形式进行。
Vincenzo Novari, CEO of Novari Holding, advisor to the Group of Li Ka-Shing speaking of the importance of developing network infrastructure in the uncovered or under-covered areas in the country
Novari Holding首席执行官、李嘉诚集团顾问 Vincenzo Novari先生谈网络未覆盖或覆盖不足地区发展网络基础设施的重要性
Vincenzo Novari, former CEO of Tre Italia and currently advisor to the Group of Li Ka-Shing and other Chinese funds in his current capacity of CEO of Novari Holding, spoke of the importance of developing network infrastructure in the uncovered or under-covered areas in the country, to make sure that all SMEs can fully participate in the digital revolution. He also praised China for its fast execution time, versus a country like Italy where too much time is spent on talk instead of action.
Vincenzo Novari，Tre Italia前首席执行官，现任李嘉诚集团顾问及Novari Holding首席执行官，谈到了在网络未覆盖或覆盖不足地区发展网络基础设施的重要性，以确保所有中小企业能够全面参与数字革命。他还称赞中国的执行速度快，相较之下意大利这样的国家则花费太多的时间在讲话而不是采取行动。
Infrastructure is arguably the backbone of an economy, as well as the enabler of a long list of innovative services and applications that run on its networks: IoT solutions like smart home and connected cars, e-commerce, e-health, big data and AI, industry 4.0, robotics, etc. Such services are also what create the demand for infrastructure upgrade. So, the two go in tandem.
Claudia Vernotti, Director of ChinaEU, introducing the second panel discussion
In the introduction to the second part of the roundtable, focused on the opportunities for Italian companies to tap into China’s digital services market, Claudia Vernotti, Director of ChinaEU, highlighted that Chinese consumers are much more smartphone savvy than the average Italian consumer, and they are much more prone to download new apps and try new digital services, which from a day to another can become viral.
Many are the exemplifications of these trends in the daily lives of China’s 694 million mobile Internet users: the easiness at which Chinese consumers use mobile payments for daily transactions, in some regions bypassing completely the credit card generation; the over-night explosion of connected bikes sharing applications like Mobike or Ofo, which are now also entering Italian cities; or again, the influence that certain individual personalities – the so-called ‘key opinion leaders’ – have built on social media platforms, transforming themselves into powerful tools for brand promotion and online marketing. It is no surprise in China to hear stories like 100 Maserati cars being sold on Alibaba’s T-mall platform in 18 seconds, or tourist offers of 88-days world tours at the price tag of USD 200,000 being sold out on China’s leading online travel agency Ctrip in 17 seconds.
在中国6.94亿移动互联网用户的日常生活中，能够体现这些趋势的例子有很多：中国消费者在日常交易中使用移动支付的普及程度，一些地区甚至不再使用信用卡; Mobike或Ofo等共享单车手机应用程序的一夜爆红，现在这些共享单车也进入了意大利城市; 还有某些个人 ，即所谓的“关键意见领袖”，在社交媒体平台上建立影响力，并把他们自己转变成为品牌推广和在线营销的有力工具。 在中国，阿里巴巴天猫平台18秒内售罄100辆玛莎拉蒂汽车、中国领先的在线旅行社携程网17秒成交价格为20万美元的88天环球旅行的故事并不足为奇。
All this means great potential for Italian companies who want to tap into the Chinese market. E-commerce can be an excellent instrument to promote the ‘Made in Italy’ to a growing middle class which today is as big as the total population of the US. The roundtable was honored by the presence of two important channels that promise to turn this potential into reality.
Alibaba is today the world’s largest market-place with over 450 million clients. Manfredi Minutelli, Senior Business Development at Alibaba Group Italy explained that Alibaba, who established its first European office in Milan two years ago, aims at introducing SMEs to the Chinese market. This is good news for Italy, whose economic structure is mainly composed of SMEs and family-based businesses, especially those operating in sectors like fashion, design, home furnishing, baby care, cosmetics and agrifood. At the same time, he warned that an approach to the Chinese market needs adequate preparation and should be coupled with the appropriate investments to stand out from a crowd of millions of other suppliers.
阿里巴巴目前是全球最大的市场平台，客户超过4.5亿。 阿里巴巴集团意大利高级业务发展部Manfredi Minutelli解释说，阿里巴巴两年前在米兰建立了第一个欧洲办事处，旨在将中小企业引入中国市场。 这对意大利来说是非常好的消息。意大利的经济结构主要由中小企业和家族企业组成，特别是时尚、设计、家居、婴儿护理、化妆品和农产品等行业。 同时，他警告说，进入中国市场的正确方式是做好充分的准备，并配合适当的投资，才能使企业从众多供应商中脱颖而出。
The other powerful channel is the one offered by Tencent, number one Internet company in China.
Andrea Ghizzoni, who has been leading the efforts of Tencent’s WeChat – China’s super app with over 900 million active users – in Italy and is now replicating this big initial success to the rest of Europe. Born as a social media platform, WeChat has consequently built itself into an Internet ecosystem integrating mobile payments (WeChat Pay) and marketing tools (Social Ads) to allow for direct connections between retailers and the end consumer, who can be targeted through tailored marketing campaigns based on age, consumer power, geographic location, etc.
China, Italy and e-commerce appears as a promising combination particularly due to the size of the Chinese market – 1.4 bn people, 731 million Internet users. But the market size explains only part of the attractiveness of China. An immense pool of data for big data analysis and AI research and the availability of skilled researchers and scientists for instance explain why Google decided to set its AI team in Beijing. Many speakers pointed out the importance of accelerating the proliferation of joint projects between European and Italian technical universities and scientific research institutes, who have the important task to prepare new generation to the digital age.
The presence of some of the world’s most active investors and the thirst of local governments for innovative foreign projects make China an incredibly relevant partner for the Italian startup community. And last but not least, an increasing outbound tourism market – today reaching 122 million tourists – make China particularly interesting in the eyes of Italy and its sophisticated hospitality industry.
Andrea Cerbone, CEO of Italian news agency ANSA, spoke about the recent agreement reached between ANSA and Xinhua – China national news agency – on information exchange, with a particular focus on providing new knowledge instruments, including on social media, to increase bilateral investments. He also mentioned how such cooperation could pave the way to the creation of an information silk road, as a complement to the digital silk road.
意大利安莎通讯社首席执行官Andrea Cerbone谈到了近期安莎通讯社和新华社这一中国国家通讯社就信息交流达成的协议，重点是提供包括社交媒体在内的新知识工具，以增加双边投资。 他还提到，这样的合作将为创建信息丝绸之路铺平道路，为数字丝路作补充。
Vinicio Peluffo, President of the Parliamentary Association for Italy-China Friendship, delivering his closing remarks, together with Luigi Gambardella and Ambassador Li Ruiyu
It was up to Vinicio Peluffo, President of the Parliamentary Association for Italy-China Friendship, to conclude a vibrant event with enthusiastic speakers, underlining one last time the huge potential to strengthen Italy-China cooperation in the digital economy and expressing his sincere hope to see more and more concrete initiatives like the ones mentioned by the speakers taking shape.
Claudia Vernotti, Director of ChinaEU, and Federico Barilli, Secretary General of Italia Startup, signing the Memorandum of Understanding
At the conclusion of the event, an MoU was signed between ChinaEU and Italia Startup, the association representing over 600 Italian startups, on top of a large community of incubators, accelerators, investors and corporates who works together to support the growth of the Italian startup community. According to the agreement, ChinaEU and Italia Startup will work together to stimulate the internationalization of the startups and build closer ties between the Chinese and the Italian startups ecosystems.