Nowadays, maybe many Italian businessmen would not deny that China is strategic for the growth of Italy, especially those who are doing business in China.
"China was our key to success," Massimo Roj, the head of an Italian company specialized in integrated design, said here on Wednesday, more than 10 years after he first set foot in Beijing.
"In 2002 I was on a mission to China and I found a world that I did not expect, very different from the stereotypical country I had in my mind," Roj told an audience of entrepreneurs who met in Milan, the economic capital of Italy, to share their success stories in setting up businesses in China.
Roj's company, Progetto CMR, today has three bureaus in Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin as well as a professional experience of several projects in China that have received international awards. DB World Architecture 100 has put the company among the first 100 architectural studios worldwide.
The Italian architect's objective of creating a sustainable architecture by a method which starts from the customer's requirements matched with one of the fields that make China especially attractive for Italian businesses.
Design, fashion, environmental technology, IT and pharmaceutical industry are among the sectors allowing Italian companies to export to China the "intangible" quality of Made in Italy, General Manager of Intesa Sanpaolo Bank Gaetano Micciche noted.
The research center of Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, which has been present in China for some 30 years, highlighted that China's demand is increasingly growing in the direction of sustainable development, high-value added products and quality of life, which meets Italy's offer.
"That is why China is strategic for the growth of Italy," Micciche stressed.
"Growing domestic consumption and middle classes make the world's second largest economy an end market with enormous potential," he said.
Italy and China have recently agreed to especially enhance cooperation in green development, agriculture and food security, sustainable urbanization and health services. Those sectors represent development priorities for China and are also strategic areas in which Italian companies have comparative advantages and can provide innovative technologies and know-how.
Grandi Salumifici Italiani Group, a leader in the Italian food industry and processed meats market, has increased tenfold its turnover to more than 600 million euros (811 million U.S. dollars) since it entered China's market in 1994.
"We considered China a concrete growth opportunity and we did well," Helmuth Senfter, President of the group's company in China which produces today an "Italian style for niche market," said at the conference.
Echoing his words, Pasquale Forte, President of Eldor, an Italian company leader in the automotive business, told the audience he was very satisfied with the choice to invest in China.
"Of course, there have been also obstacles due to cultural differences and diverse behavior in the two countries, that we have tried to overcome with more effective communication," he said.
But Forte was enthusiastic in noting that Chinese employees working in the group's new plant in Dalian, which started production a few months ago, are "highly qualified." At full, the plant will have a population of more than 500 employees with 8 production lines.
According to the Milan-based Italy China Foundation, the organizer of Wednesday's conference, Italian investments to China in 2013 amounted to 316 million U.S. dollars, nearly 29 percent up compared to 2012.
Last year, Italian exports to China posted an 8.1-growth compared to 2012, the foundation also said based on data of the China General Administration of Customs.
"A common strategic vision for China characterizes the Italian companies that can tell success stories today," Italy China Foundation President Cesare Romiti said at the conference. "We will continue to work to have many more positive examples," he concluded.