Ji Zhihai: Today's 'Marco Polo' connecting China and Italy
Editor's note: East China's Zhejiang province is renowned for its large international population. Aloft on the wings of China's reform and opening-up policy, a group of Zhejiang people have gone abroad to make a living since the 1970s. As this year marks the 40th anniversary of the policy, the Zhejiang website (www.ezhejiang.gov.cn) is launching a series of stories about overseas Chinese who are originally from Zhejiang, as well as those who are active in the province's development. Stories courtesy of Zhejiang Federation of Returned Overseas Chinese and Zheshang Magazine
Ji Zhihai, a businessman from Qingtian county, Zhejiang province [Photo/Zheshang Magazine]
Ji Zhihai, a native of Qingtian county, Zhejiang province, is one of the ever increasing amounts of Chinese businesspeople who have built businesses abroad after China's reform and opening-up policy.
In 1986, Ji went to Italy and worked at a local Chinese restaurant. The language and cultural barriers initially impeded him in his work and life, and so the young man decided to study Italian and commercial regulations for his future development.
"My thoughts at the time were that our practices should comply with the local rules so that we can better adapt ourselves to the local community," Ji said.
After a year, he got a good command of basic Italian and in 1989, Ji opened his own Chinese restaurant in Forli, a city in the northern part of Italy.
The restaurant owner's good knowledge of language and local laws and regulations enabled him to forge good relationships with Italian residents. Meanwhile, his accommodating personality helped him win much respect from Chinese compatriots in the European country.
The Italian authorities and the Chinese Embassy in Italy noticed the active role Ji was playing in boosting people-to-people exchanges between the two countries. In 1997, Ji was elected as a foreign parliamentarian by the Municipality of Forli, the first foreigner in Italy's history to take the position.
Since then, Ji has taken on the role of seeking benefits for Chinese people in Italy. He has organized various activities to promote Chinese culture and facilitate communications between the two peoples. Moreover, Ji has helped the Zhejiang government form friendly ties with its Italian counterparts and acted as a go-between for bilateral economic and cultural collaboration.
Ji said China has undergone earth-shaking changes, especially in its infrastructure, since it launched the reform and opening-up policy in the 1970s. "The policy has made China known to more foreign people," he said.
In recent years, Ji has been paying attention to the development of his motherland and taking the lead in serving the overseas Chinese who reside in Italy.