Esteban Zottele – Changzhou University

Esteban Zottele, a 51-year-old Argentine, has always been fond of China. As a child, he created a picture of China in his mind through reading books. When he grew up, he traveled to the ancient Asian country and settled down. He is now an ambassador for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

Zottele has been in China for more than 20 years. His first acquaintance with China was at the age of 5 at an acrobatic show performed by a Chinese troupe in Argentina. Reading more about the country “sparked his curiosity and fascination with everything about it”, he says.

In 1999, Zottele made his first trip to China. During his monthlong stay, he toured Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou in Guangdong province, among other cities.

The trip changed his life. After returning to Argentina, he began learning Chinese, eating Chinese food and even practicing kung fu.

In 2010, he came to study at Renmin University of China in Beijing and obtained a doctoral degree. In his spare time, Zottele spent most of his time traveling around, leaving his footsteps in the cities of Baoding in Hebei province, Chongqing and Shenzhen in Guangdong.

“My study experience has made me more closely connected with China,” he says.

He was stunned at the vast and rich culture, as well as the rapid development and transformation of China over the years.

“Most cities are now connected by high-speed railway, unlike when I first visited here,” Zottele says.

“My father is in Mexico, my mother is in Argentina, and I’m in China. We can video chat simultaneously through WeChat, which is very convenient,” he says.

Currently, Zottele teaches Spanish at the School of Foreign Studies of Changzhou University in East China’s Jiangsu province. He is also the deputy director of the Latin American Studies Center of the university. Since 2013, he has been carrying out research on the BRI.

To Zottele, the BRI is a good opportunity to help boost the development of Latin American countries.

“In recent years, a greater number of Latin American countries have joined China in constructing the BRI. As a result, Argentine companies can expand the market in China and improve commercial relations between the two nations,” says Zottele.

Zottele adds that cultural differences should be recognized and cross-cultural interactions should be prioritized, so as to foster mutual understanding and trust among people of all countries.

“During my lessons, I will help students develop their cross-cultural communication and management skills, as well as motivate them to participate in more cultural exchange activities between China and Latin America, and genuinely engage in international exchanges,” he says.

He also led a team of teachers and business owners from Latin America to visit Changzhou before the outbreak of COVID-19. Within two weeks, the team members improved their understanding of China and were eager to cooperate with Chinese enterprises.

“They found that China had developed considerably more quickly than they thought and that people’s living standards are improving rapidly,” says Zottele.

Zottele’s father, too, is devoted to the research for the BRI. In 2020, Zottele and his father co-authored a book on the initiative.

“I frequently explain to my family and friends in Argentina that hearing about China from others is insufficient. They need to visit China and learn about Chinese traditional culture, as well as the development of modern China and the hospitality of the Chinese people,” says Zottele.

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