Across China: Italian ice cream brings overseas Chinese home

Source: Xinhua| 2018-07-24 19:45:07|Editor: ZX
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by Xinhua writers Chen Chen and Wei Donghua

HANGZHOU, July 24 (Xinhua) -- Claudio Desideri, a 59-year-old Italian, has plans to expand his ice cream business to China after a pep talk given by his younger brother's wife, Xu Xuefen.

"The equipment, freezer, and ingredients are all ready. We will be ready to go once the engineers from Italy finish commissioning the machine," Xu told Desideri.

Xu is from Qingtian County, Zhejiang Province. The hilly country in China's east was once called "the closest place to globalization" as it has over 300 years' history of migration. With a population of 550,000, the county is also home to another 330,000 people who live in 128 countries and regions around the globe.

In 1986, Xu, at the age of 19, was admitted to a university in the Italian city of Perugia. Like many others, she chose Europe with hopes to one day earn a high living. Two months after she arrived, however, she spent all her money and had no choice but to drop out of school and find work.

In Rome, Xu worked as a waitress, a bartender, and a lighter salesperson, sharing a house with a dozen other Chinese people.

Recalling that period, she said, "it's poverty that gives rise to the desire for change."

"It was a golden time for foreign trade," Xu said. "The made-in-China lighters had a price advantage in Italy." At the time, she could sell "a container of lighters" each day.

In eight months, Xu earned about 500,000 to 600,000 yuan (73,000 to 88,000 U.S. dollars) and opened a Chinese restaurant.

She later married a local policeman, whose family has been in the ice cream business for over 60 years, now operating seven stores, a favorite among locals.

In 2015, Xu received visiting officials from Qingtian to Italy, who told her that an import commodities mall was about to open in her hometown. Favorable policies were developed to attract overseas Chinese to return home to start businesses.

After a lengthy discussion, she and her husband decided to bring their ice cream to China. Desideri was very supportive, believing in the market potential of one of the most populous countries in the world.

"We all know she wanted to bring her business back to China someday," Desideri said. "I have been to China several times and found the business environment satisfactory. Local governments are ready to offer help whenever we have a problem."

"In Italy, ice cream is a part of people's daily life. Sometimes we even have ice cream and bread for dinner," said Desideri.

Xu said ice cream in Italy has dozens of flavors like pistachio and lavender that are not seen in China. She believes her ice cream will be a hit.

With Desideri's ice cream factory set to open soon, he and his son will be in charge of production, with Xu doing the marketing.

"We all love this Chinese lady. She's smart, kind, and has good business insights," Desideri said. "My son loves China very much. He wants to stay in China for a long time and one day, marry a Chinese woman."

"When the ice cream factory is on the right track, I plan to invite my Italian relatives and friends to China. My Italian parents-in-law have never been here before," Xu said.