China-Europe Business Group

Opportunities and challenges in Italy-China relationships

Paolo Besio Paolo Besio

According to a study of the Italy-China Embassy, China represents a primary partner for Italy as concerns both export and import. At a European level, Italy ranks fourth among exporting as well as importing countries.

The “Made in Italy” brand has a strong appeal on Chinese consumers: from lifestyle, fashion and luxury, to food, to the industrial sector, where the Italian manufacturing know-how is particularly valued as synonym of reliability and accuracy. Opportunities are huge: the market is growing fast, though no longer recording a double-digit growth as a few years ago, and is expected to continue growing to become the second largest economy globally, and eventually the first.

Underpinning this growth is the strong urbanisation: besides Beijing, Shanghai and Canton, among second and third tier cities are 20 metropolis with 7 to 10 million inhabitants each, in addition to various other urban areas with 3 to 5 million people. This enormous development is accompanied by the middle class’ growing purchasing power. Despite domestic consumption being strongly stimulated, the middle class is more keen on buying high-quality products and that’s where the “Made in Italy” brand can make a difference.

The internationalisation of Italian businesses in China needs to come quickly to a more advanced and structural phase. In order to seize the opportunities offered by the market, in fact, a local presence is crucial. Only in this way, it is possible to anticipate the demand for consumer products and capital goods. And to move into a market that despite having opened up a lot and reached a high degree of modernisation, continues having specific characteristics requiring a thorough understanding of its dynamics, and ultimately the support of reliable local partners.

Chinese are also keen travellers and good spenders. In recent years tourism suffered a downturn following, generally speaking, terrorist attacks which discouraged tour operators and individual travellers from visiting our continent. There are nonetheless marked signs of recovery. As far as Italy is concerned, cities of art, cities symbols of the Italian culture and “Made in Italy”, such as Milan, as well as seaside destination as the Cinque Terre remain popular destinations.


Opportunities and challenges in the relationship between China and European countries are the focus of the China-Europe: New Investment Opportunities Forum  held in Madrid on 10 May, in which took part Paolo Besio.

China-Europe Business Group
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