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Shandong remains cultural, economic powerhouse in China

By Alberto Casartelli | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-05-19 16:09

Editor's note: We have asked expats living in China to share their own stories about the cities they work and live in. Alberto Casartelli is from Italy and he is the secretary for the Italian side of the Shandong Chamber of Commerce.

Considering how much Jinan, the city where I lived for more than a year between 2015 and 2016, has changed in recent years, it seems like much more time has passed, but it has only been eight years.

I have been back living in China for a few months now. Although, I am living in the city of Tianjin now, I have not missed a chance to revisit Jinan, the city which hosted me for more than a year and in which I had a very happy time in my life.

Alberto Casartelli samples the art of the guqin, an ancient stringed instrument, in Jinan. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

I still found the same city: hospitable, open and full of social and cultural activities. I was able to immerse myself in art at the International Biennial at the Shandong Museum, still breathe in the atmosphere of nature at Baotu Spring and Daming Lake in Lixia, go shopping in Tianqiao, dine at a local traditional restaurant, and much more.

But at the same time I saw a different city as I visited completely new areas, with a horizon of new skyscrapers, with offices as far as the eye can see and enormous shopping malls. This is the sign of a city and a province that have always moved forward, that have never thought of stopping, and that record some of the highest economic growth in all of China.

Already Confucius taught us that "loving one's work enables us not to feel its burden". And now, just as it was eight years ago, I still met people who love their work and who convey enthusiasm for it.

In 2015, working in Jinan as an English teacher at a Montessori institute and as an Italian teacher in a language school, I observed the effort and desire my colleagues had for providing serenity to children and students, and to help them grow as individuals as well.

Now, as the secretary for the Italian side of the Shandong Chamber of Commerce, I have met companies eager to make contributions to China's restart and growth, and to take their excellence outside China and around the world.

Alberto Casartelli receives the Rose Global Partner award during the 2023 Rose Products Expo in Jinan. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

In particular, the 2023 Rose Products Expo has just concluded in Jinan, which I had the pleasure of attending and the honor of receiving the Rose Global Partner award.

Pingyin's roses are the perfect example of how a specialty in Shandong has great potential, and represents China's constant effort to improve and lead the way in a wide variety of fields.

In fact, the technologies for growing and processing these roses are unique in the world, managing to create dozens of different varieties of roses, from healing roses to cosmetic products to drinking water, tea and sweets.

But Shandong province is also much more. It is a pearl nestled in the middle of the Bohai Sea and the Yellow Sea. With over 3,000 km of coastline, it boasts striking seascapes, from Qingdao to Yantai to Weihai.

You can climb Mount Tai, one of the most fascinating and magnificent mountains in China, with its strong spiritual aura.

It is the home of Confucius and Confucianism. With an ancestor of this importance, it could only be a province that is also very attentive to its cultural roots.

This September, it will host a very important event: the ninth Nishan Forum on World Civilizations, in which I will participate as deputy secretary of the ICCX (Italy-China Cultural Exchange) and which will also be attended by the president of this association Zhang Changxiao and the government of Regione Lombardia, the most industrialized province in Italy.

Shandong is also a land of great hospitality. As Confucius himself liked to reiterate, "is it not a pleasure to welcome friends who come from afar"?

It is also an economic powerhouse, which has been recognized as a province with the greatest potential for development in China. If we exclude the four special municipalities, it is already the third richest province.

Jinan boasts technology-intensive industries – so much so that it is considered a "hi-tech zone". It epitomizes the excellence of the new "hi-tech" made in China and innovation, with more than 20,000 enterprises focused on important sectors, such as next-generation IT, quantum science and technology, as well as culture and tourism.

All these sectors are growing very fast in importance in Shandong, and we hope they will continue to do so, boosting the real economy of this beautiful province and of all China.

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