ROME, March 23 (Xinhua) -- When Chinese President Xi Jinping quoted Alberto Moravia in a signed article in a leading newspaper here, he cast new light on the 20th-century Italian writer who had a "long and intense" connection with China, scholars said.
Quoting Moravia, Xi wrote in the Corriere della Sera article: "Friendships are not chosen by chance, but according to the passions that dominate us."
The quotation, said Italian scholars, fits in well with the larger point in Xi's article, which was published on the eve of his state visit to Italy and focuses on promoting stronger ties between the two countries.
"Moravia had a long and intense relationship with China," Donatello Santarone, a professor of intercultural education at Roma Tre University, told Xinhua. "On his first trip to China, Moravia wrote 32 articles, explaining the complexities of Chinese culture at a time when Italians knew very little about the country."
All told, Moravia made three important trips to China over a period of 50 years, the last of which came in 1986, just four years before the writer, journalist and public intellectual died in Rome at the age of 82.
According to Luca Clerici, a professor of Italian literature specializing in travel writing at the State University of Milan, Moravia's writings on China show that he was particularly entranced by Beijing and the Great Wall.
Clerici also said Moravia's objectivity about places he traveled to made him an especially compelling storyteller.
"Moravia was not a casual traveler," Clerici said. "He always studied about a place a great deal before traveling to that place. He didn't arrive with pre-conceived notions or a specific agenda. He didn't have political filters. That allowed him to discuss a place in a way that stands up years later."
Clerici said Moravia played a key role in helping form public opinion about China for generations of Italians.
"About a third of his writings touched on China in some way, and he introduced an interest in China to many Italians," Clerici said.
While Moravia has been an important public figure in Italy for generations, his works have become less read with time, according to Lorenzo Pavolini, a writer and a member of the board of directors of the Alberto Moravia Fund.
Xi's remarks, however, helped shed new light on Moravia's long and prolific career, Pavolini said.
"Moravia was one of the most important 20th-century public intellectuals, with a career of a writer and journalist that spanned more than 60 years," Pavolini told Xinhua. "He remains a well-known and well-respected figure."
"He is less read now than he was 20 or 25 years ago," he said. "But I think the fact that the president of China called attention to him might convince some Italians to do the same."