The “Friends of China” Parliamentary Association turns 53 this year. It was founded in 1970 by Senator Vittorino Colombo of the now-extinct Christian Democracy party (a political behemoth, encompassing the centre-left, centre-right and everything in between that held power in all governments after World War II for fifty years).
- Today, both Rome and Beijing are very different places. However, the association is still going strong: it garnered members from the entire parliamentary spectrum and remains the fixed point in Parliament for the betterment of Italian-Chinese relations.
In the president’s words. Interviewed by Geopolitica.info, the association’s president and Democratic Party MP Vinicio Peluffo said the Association strives to “pursue mutual understanding between peoples through dialogue, listening, and the promotion of institutional and cultural exchange” and described it as an “element of continuity and a point of reference in promoting mutual understanding between the two countries.”
- “We have always favoured widening the ‘contact surface’ between the two countries, in the conviction that the reasons of national interest are strengthened in dialogue and in stimulating mutual openness.”
Meetings and diplomatic missions. The Association, noted Mr Peluffo, “works on an institutional level to foster reciprocal knowledge, first and foremost among representatives in institutions (mainly MPs), aiming to offer opportunities for exchange […] to develop partnership projects in various fields, mostly culture, which help to create fertile ground for further developments that are the initiative of the interested parties and see the accompaniment of public and private entities operating in this sector.”
What of the shifting times? Friends of China seems to remain committed to its initial mission even in an era of superpower rivalry and growing Chinese assertiveness, to which Italy is responding by entrenching itself even more deeply within the Euro-Atlantic and democratic fronts.
- When asked what he made of the Association’s link with China in this day and age, Mr Peluffo recalled that “differences in political and religious beliefs must not prevent peoples and states from coming together to develop a discourse of brotherhood, friendship, mutual aid, animated by the imperious desire to build a peaceful and hard-working universal society”.
- “I am convinced that these are words that are not only relevant today, but also indicate, even at a time such as the one we are living in, the somewhat obligatory path to avoid competition becoming conflict,” he concluded.