"Issues on China" introduced by our Director Alberto Di Minin

“Issues on China” introduced by our Director Alberto Di Minin

Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa, a European academic excellence and flagship of Italian research, has launched the innovative initiative of the “Seasonal Schools‘. These are highly interdisciplinary training courses, focused on the frontier research themes of the School, intended for university students enrolled in Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD courses with the same profit characteristics as students of the School. The Seasonal Schools are opportunities to get in touch with other students of merit from all over Italy and abroad to experience our facilities and laboratories.

In particular, as regard to China, Sant’Anna, which has been present in the country for almost fifteen years thanks to the fruitful partnership with Chongqing University, has launched the “Seasonal School: Issues on China“, which will take place online from 9 to 13 November 2020. 

This Seasonal School is dedicated to the memory of the former Consul General of Italy in Chongqing, Filippo Nicosia, a close friend and supporter of the activities of Sant’Anna in China and our Galilei Institute based in Chongqing University. 

For the occasion we interviewed our Director, Professor Alberto Di Minin, coordinator of “Issues on China”, Full Professor Sant’Anna, Italian Director of the Confucius Institute of Pisa and Director of the Galileo Galilei Institute at Chongqing University.

Professor Di Minin, is China really so complex to understand?

An approach full of curiosity and constant listening to the experiences from the field is necessary with China. These are some of the key elements to get closer to understanding contemporary China, which is a sum of diversities, a fascinating country we all must deal with. Ultimately, China is increasingly “closer”: we need to get to know our neighbour to share life and business better and develop a bilateral “win-win” relationship. 

Not a day goes by without news and insights on the “Middle Kingdom”. In large Italian cities, such as in Milan, Rome and Naples, in the smallest realities of the Peninsula and also in our Pisa, China is increasingly present in daily conversations and horizons. To approach China it is necessary to be humble and curious, have the patience and the will to study, learn, read and listen. China is a constellation, an archipelago of realities that are often difficult to decipher, but at the same time fascinating and surprising.

What are the objectives of “Issues on China” and to whom is it addressed?

The Seasonal School “Issues on China” is open to Italian and foreign university students of all courses and levels, and it is an attempt made by Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies to open its digital doors and its skills to the ones interested. Our main goal is to concentrate in five days an offer that differs from the others for the large number of experts involved, for the quality of their contributions and finally for their unique vision on the field.

What are the main issues that will be addressed?

This first edition is a training opportunity that offers, through a dynamic and dense program, an introduction to the economic, social, political and legal aspects of contemporary China, through the lens of the main research activities promoted by the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies of Pisa. The school will be characterised by a strong interdisciplinary approach and will focus on meeting people, ways of thinking and case studies related to China.

The school will provide participants with the opportunity to develop the necessary background to understand some of China’s main issues such as the phenomenon of tourism, geopolitical and international positioning, technology transfer and Chinese legal system. We will talk about innovation, social and technological change, tourist flows of people, diplomatic relations. All of this is to be deployed in five days characterised by high intensity and great energy and passion coming from all the speakers. 

The speakers will be diplomats, university professors, researchers, managers, entrepreneurs: they will offer their experience in the field of Sino-Italian relations, and their vision of the future. We are living in fact complex times filled with problems but also historical challenges to be met. The People’s Republic of China is now a protagonist, at all levels, of this changing landscape. 

How do you judge the level of knowledge and the Italian public debate on China?

The public debate in Italy on China is growing rapidly. Curiosity is everywhere, spread to all levels of society. In Italy we perceive the increasing presence of China and we discuss it candidly both in debates of academic conferences, both on the street or in bars where common people meet and share ideas. I believe it is a fascinating phenomenon. If we then look at the numbers of Chinese growth and analyse them carefully, we understand that it is not just a “story”, but that China has really returned to the center of the scene and it will stay there for a long time. 

If the perception may be superficial, knowledge of China is an aspect that develops in a much deeper way. It is built with study, listening, respect, through a layering of information accumulated with a critical eye over years, not months. The “Middle Kingdom” represents a very complex reality, which I have been lucky enough to study for many years, thanks also to the presence of a successful academic collaboration between Sant’Anna and Chongqing University.

China is a constellation, a jagged and constantly changing reality. It can be observed and explored from multiple angles. What we want to highlight in our offer is the point of view of people who work there and have experienced it on the ground. I believe this is the strength of our Seasonal School on China.

How difficult is it to keep a balance in a geopolitical convergence in which opposing tensions and pressures are becoming stronger, even in Italy?

China represents an outlet market for our exports but not only. As wisely pointed out by our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is also important to consider the “Made by Italy” in China: our presence in terms of investments, at the distribution and production level.

At the same time, what we see, in addition to our interest in the Chinese market, is a very strong rapprochement of China with more and more parts of the European Union. Italy is not an exception. This makes it necessary on the one hand to operate with professionalism, and at the same time to intrigue young Italians, with the aim of training future professionals who will inevitably have to deal with China in their own lives in one way or another.

I believe I am a realistic and pragmatic person: regardless of our personal opinions, China must be dealt with, we cannot fail to know it. Under the banner of this awareness, I think that the Seasonal School dedicated to the memory of a fine Italian diplomat like Filippo Nicosia, who has dedicated his short but intense career to pursuing an exploration of China and Asia with curiosity, is a excellent starting point and study for many young Italians.

Interview by Marco Bonaglia

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