China’s Multi-billion Dollar Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) was launched in 2013 to connect Asia, Africa & Europe through a Series of Overland Corridors and Maritime Shipping Lanes.

Since BRI’s inception, it has made significant progress with 125 Countries & 29 International Organisations signed 173 Co-operation agreements. Hungary was the first European Country to sign a BRI Memorandum of Understanding with China in 2015.

By 2019, a further 22 European Countries had signed up to BRI. Ties between China and Europe continue to grow with the latest European Country to sign BRI being Luxembourg. Italy is the first G7 Country to sign up Belt & Road Initiative in March 2019.

In late March when the Coronavirus was sweeping across Italy, Xiao Yunru, a Chinese writer and literary critic, initiated a donation of 5,000 face masks to a hospital in Milan on the request of Italian Sinologist Giuseppina Merchionne.

Having first met at a Symposium on the Silk Road in China’s Northwestern City of Xi’an in March 2018, the two Scholars from both ends of the ancient route have fostered the bond between the peoples of the two Countries amid the Pandemic.

In late February when China was grappling with the virus, Merchionne, also a Professor of Chinese Language and Culture at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, extended her sincere sympathy through text messages to Xiao.

“My relationship with China spans decades,” she said. “I miss and am concerned for you all. Wish you all the best.”

They kept close contact with each other and shared solicitude to the people affected by the coronavirus.

On March 16, Merchionne told Xiao there was an acute shortage of FFP2 respirators at Niguarda Hospital in Milan and asked Xiao if he could ship some to the hospital.

Xiao immediately asked Zhao Qi, Vice Head of the Romanian Chamber of Commerce in Shaanxi Province, for help and Zhao sent 5,000 Respirators to the Hospital from Romania on March 22.

Merchionne said she was grateful for the protective equipment sent by her Chinese friends and called them her “friends for life.”

“People-to-people exchanges have united us as one,” Xiao said, adding that people around the world share the same future in human development.