China-Italy 50 years of partnership: Opportunities for Italian Businesses


China-Italy relationships

In 2020, Italy and China celebrated 50 years of bilateral diplomatic relations. Throughout antiquity, the two countries had unofficial contacts, through cultural and economic exchanges. 50 years after the formal signing, the friendship between the two countries is solid. This was demonstrated by the aid sent by China to combat the health emergency in which Italy found itself at the beginning of 2020.

This 50 years anniversary is a symbolic milestone, which acts as a stimulus and a flywheel of new opportunities to expand the institutional and economic dimension, and intensify the collaboration between companies, schools, universities, and, more generally, between the two countries.

2020 was also the year of Italy-China Culture and Tourism; and among other important events, we remember the Joint Meeting of the Italy-China Government Committee, whose tenth session will be held in Beijing. Given the obvious difficulties the world is facing right now, we hope that the situation will re-establish itself soon.

History of Chinese and Italian relationship

The Italians were among the first in Europe to start trade with China. The Silk Road united these two ancient civilizations and allowed frequent economic and cultural exchanges between them.

After the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949, Italy formally recognized only the Republic of China (Taiwan), making the existence of formal relations with the PRC incompatible. However, in the 1960s, China began to establish unofficial economic, cultural, and political relations with Italy.

Bilateral relations between Italy and China officially began on November 6, 1970, a date that marks the start of a long phase of collaboration.


How the relationship between these two countries was implemented?

Over the past few years, the intensity of the dialogue between the top executives of the two countries and the flow of visits at the top and governmental levels has strengthened institutional interaction and made possible multiple initiatives in various sectors. Furthermore, instruments have been set up to guarantee the continuity of the bilateral relationship.

Among these is the Italy-China Government Committee; the Mixed Economic Commission; the Bilateral Cultural Forum and the Business Forum. On 23 March 2019, Luigi Di Maio – then Vice President and Minister – signed three Memorandums of Understanding on Electronic Commerce, Startups, and – the most discussed – the “Belt and Road Initiative”.

The objectives that Italy has set itself with participation in the BRI – also known as New Silk Roads – are mainly: increase in exports to the Chinese market; involvement of Italian companies for the implementation of infrastructure projects along the Silk Roads; inclusion of Italian ports in international trade routes.


Economic and commercial cooperation

Italy confirmed its position as China’s fourth supplier among European countries. Exports amounted to 13.2 billion euros, reporting a decline of 2.4% in 2017; while imports amounted to about 30.7 billion – an increase of 8.1% over the previous year. The export and import dynamics produced a trade deficit for Italy of 17.6 billion euros in 2018 (approximately + 18% compared to the previous year).

Italy mainly exports machinery, instrumentation, cars, clothing, pharmaceutical, and agri-food products; from the People’s Republic of China, it imported especially textiles and clothing products, chemicals, and mechanical and electronic components.

Made in Italy products in the food sector are highly appreciated and associated with a good quality of life, according to the report by the Italian Embassy in China, Italy is the leading supplier of chocolate and pasta; the second of olive oil, mineral waters, and sparkling wines; the third for wines.


Opportunities for Italian brands: The results of Ecco l’Italia

Over 4.7 million euros in made-in-Italy products sold in two hours on Tmall and 21 million views. These are the results of Ecco l’Italia, an event conceived by the China Media Group with the support of the Italian Embassy in Beijing and the Italian Chamber of Commerce in China. This is the first streaming sales event dedicated to Italian products organized in China. The occasion is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The brands on sale were Moschino, Golden Goose Deluxe Brand, De’Longhi, Barilla, Acqua Panna, Marvis, Acqua di Parma, and Rilastil. Over the past two years, there has been a rapid development in streaming sales in the People’s Republic, a modality that has promoted a new consumer experience and has enabled the exploration of new channels for quality products and better after-sales services.

This year not even the city lockdown has affected streaming sales, on the contrary, they have become a very important way to stimulate consumption and promote economic recovery in China.

“Ecco l’Italia” was promoted by two Chinese celebrities, one is Kang Hui, the most influential host of the China Media Group and the other is China’s top beauty influencer Austin Li (Lipstick King), who “can sell” 15 thousand lipsticks in five minutes.

In recent years, economic and commercial exchanges between China and Italy have continued to grow. According to data published by the General Customs of China, in 2019 the volume of trade between China and Italy was 54.899 billion dollars (+ 1.2% on an annual basis) of which 21.412 billion were Chinese imports from Italy. , which saw an increase of 1.7%.
The relationships between China and Italy will increase in the future and many brands will have the opportunity to expand their horizons.


The growth of China Cross-border E-commerce

Cross-border E-commerce, or international online commerce, is booming in China and with the acquisition, in September 2019, of one of the main players, Kaola, the Alibaba group is aiming for even more significant development. The Covid-19 crisis had accelerated the growth of cross-border eCommerce in China, with Alibaba and Tencent now “fighting” to become the most appealing platform to foreign brands.
Cross-border eCommerce channels in China experienced a compound annual growth rate of 76% between 2015 and 2018, resulting in RMB 78.5 billion in gross volume of goods in 2019. Many important luxury brands, such as Armani and Prada, which were not present on the marketplaces, have recently launched their presence on Tmall.

One thing that every business wanting to enter the Chinese market should keep in mind is that Chinese consumers are very wary when it comes to purchasing products or services. You may be a B2B company selling machinery or a fashion brand, your tools will differ but the goal will be the same: Build your Online reputation in China.


Every Business in China needs a Website in Chinese


Chinese Social Media

Keep in mind, WeChat is not a lead generation app. In fact, the app is closed social media, meaning that your content is only seen by those who follow you and their friend if they decide to share on their moment. Although the app has been opening up a little more with Wechat Channel, it is still not an easy task to go viral. We strongly suggest you use WeChat as a nurturing platform; The app has great tools for this purpose:

  • Wechat H5 brochure: easy to share with potential business partners/clients.
  • WeChat Group Marketing: Engage with your target audience and share your content
  • Wechat post: use it as an alternative for the newsletter. Make sure the content is interesting enough.
  • Wechat Channel: Probably the best way to go “viral” on Wechat. Let peoples discover you through interesting videos
  • CRM and Wechat Menu: The best way to manage and guide your followers in order for them to have the most pleasant and smooth experience when using your services.


  • Weibo Verified account especially good for B2C companies

Weibo is a local microblogging platform. It will give you access to such a huge Chinese audience and especially will provide you a huge prospect of marketing.

Weibo being an open social media is a great platform to go viral, try new audiences and have fun with your community through contests and games. The paid ads system is also mature and cost-efficient especially compared to Wechat. If you are thinking about paid ads, Weibo definitely a channel to consider.


Toutiao: Paid Ads for B2B company

Toutiao is Douyin’s sister app and uses the same super-targeting algorithm that made Douyin so popular. Toutiao is a news aggregator app. You’ll find newspapers, blogs post, and videos. The content is extremely varied and tailored to each user. The ads system has proven to work extremely well for B2B companies. Indeed, Toutiao’s user base is mostly composed of men with higher education and an interest in business & Finance. Worth giving it a shot.


You are an Italian company and you want to implement your business with China? Contact us.


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