Last week at the delicate Pauline Chapel of the Quirinale Palace, Itlay’s Presidential Palace, guests from both China and Italy arrived one after another, including Chinese Ambassador to Italy Li Junhua.

They came not for a ceremony, but for a special concert hosted by Italy’s President Sergio Mattarella, as China and Italy are running a culture and tourism year this year and the Chinese people are endeavouring to fight the emergence of the novel coronavirus.

The special event was performed by Chinese-born Italian pianist Jin Ju before a large audience of Italian officials, cultural representatives, students, and many members of the Chinese community in Rome, in solidarity with the Chinese people to deal with the coronavirus emergency.

It was broadcast live by Italy’s state-run RAI radio and TV channels, providing a fresh opportunity to reinforce bonds between the two people and two countries, as the Italian head of state has urged in various occasions in recent days.

The event saw pianist Ju perform seven pieces overall, including classical music and the Chinese folk music called “Honghu Waters, Wave upon Wave” that originates from Hubei province in central China, the epicentre of the current novel coronavirus epidemic.

“This concert highlights the relevance our country attaches to the Italy-China Year of Culture and Tourism 2020, and it represents a sign of friendship from the Italian people to the Chinese people,” Mattarella told media before the concert.

The president noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Rome and Beijing, which he said: “have been shaped on the base of mutual friendship and common interest.”

“We (now) have a common enemy, the ongoing epidemic,” Mattarella stressed.

The president’s remarks were echoed by guests present at the event.

“I am living this moment with a feeling of strong solidarity; Italy-China bonds are extraordinarily strong and resilient, also at cultural level”

Paola Severino, Vice President of LUISS-Guido Carli University, Rome & former Minister

“We (guests) all are here to give proof of such solidarity towards a country that is putting all of its efforts and resources into fighting this epidemic,” she added.

Severino appreciated the Italian head of state for taking the initiative and hosting the special concert, “because this is a strong signal when a president of the Republic takes such a symbolic step, he is encouraging the whole country to a stronger sense of integration, which should be global.”

Teacher Francesco Alario, coordinator of the Confucius Hall at the Convitto Nazionale boarding school in Rome, recalled Thursday’s special concert was not the only step Mattarella has so far taken in solidarity with China these days.

Indeed, the president paid a surprise visit earlier this month to an elementary school in Rome with a very large number of pupils of immigrant origins, including many Chinese children of the third or fourth generation.

Both the visit and the concert were “signs of recognition, closeness, and affection towards the Chinese people,” the teacher told.

“I would add the fact that Chinese lyrics are being performed here underlines a musical interaction between the two countries,” Alario said.

“The same happened with the concert held at the Auditorium in Rome on Jan. 21 (at the official opening of the Italy-China Year of culture and tourism) when Chinese and Italian musicians performed together,” Alario said.

In a broader perspective of bilateral exchanges, considering both the Italy-China Year of culture and tourism, and the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year, sector representatives at the concert sounded mildly optimistic about and sympathetic with the emergency China was facing.

“We have started last year already with the Belt & Road Initiative, and I expect we will stay on this path in the near future,” Andrea Canapa, secretary-general of Italian Federation of Travel and Tourism Associations, told.

Canapa stressed the year 2020 was especially important because culture and tourism were crucial sectors for both the Italian and the Chinese economies, “and we are working to improve the Italians’ knowledge of the Chinese culture on the one side, and the Chinese tourism here on the other.”

“Hopefully, we will see the end of this emergency soon … so all of our efforts will bring as many Italians to China as possible,” he said.