NANJING, Aug. 3 (Xinhua) -- 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 mysterious oriental country and settled down. He now is also an ambassador for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Zottele has been in China for over 20 years. His first acquaintance with China was at the age of five at an acrobatic show performed by a Chinese troupe in Argentina. He said reading more about China "sparked his curiosity and fascination with everything about the country."
In 1999, Zottele made his first trip to China. During his month-long stay, he toured Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and other cities.
The trip changed his life. He began learning Chinese, eating Chinese food and even practicing Kung fu after returning to Argentina.
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, with his footsteps having reached the cities of Baoding, Chongqing and Shenzhen.
"My study experience has made me more closely connected with China," he said.
He was stunned at the vast and rich culture and 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 said.
"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 said.
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 China-proposed BRI.
To Zottele, the BRI is a good opportunity to help boost the development of Latin American countries.
"In recent years, more and more Latin American countries have joined China in constructing the BRI. During the process, Argentine companies can expand the market in China and improve commercial relations between the two nations," said Zottele.
Zottele believes 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 daily teaching, I would 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 said.
He also led a team of teachers and businessmen 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 developed considerably more quickly than they thought. And people's living standards are improving rapidly," said Zottele.
Zottele's father, too, is devoted to the research of the BRI. In 2020, Zottele and his father co-authored a book on the BRI.
"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 Chinese people," said Zottele.