We are a group of officers of the Italian State Police who have formed ourselves into an association going by the name of “Peace for the People”, and we are organising an expedition by motorbike to China, where we plan to arrive at the beginning of August 2002, after crossing a number of other countries en route.
This is an ambitious project and we are aware of the difficulties in carrying it through. The purpose of this leaflet is to put our message across to all those individuals and organisations who can, and would like to, contribute to the fulfilling of a dream.
We should begin by saying that, of all the destinations which were suggested during the long meetings leading up to the planning phase of our expedition, China was the place on which everyone agreed at once, thanks also to advice from our friend Mauro Ceccarelli, who was the first tourist motorcyclist in history to reach Peking via Tibet in 1990, for which he earned the prize of “trip of the year” from the Italian Federation of Motorcyclists.
Needless to say, it was primarily ambition which influenced our choice, but also considerations of history and culture of the country. The title “La Cina e vicina” was not intended as a paradox. (In Italian the title has a double meaning: China is close, as well as China is our neighbour).
This country, destined to be ever more a key protagonist in the consensus of nations – has played a part in history of which few other countries can boast. A culture dating back thousands of years which has influenced the entire planet, a vast variety of traditions and peoples which has few rivals, the largest population in the world and for more than a decade, an economic development running at double, if not triple the speed of richer and more developed countries. It is not hard to believe that in the near future China will be a major player in the future of the world.
This year will see China’s entry into the WTO, the world organisation which regulates trade between nations with the aim of complete harmonisation of the markets. It is a major challenge both for western countries as well as for China; both will certainly be required to look closely at their own consolidated positions in order to work out a means to speak a common language.
China in just a few years has opened itself up to the market economy and in the space of a few more decades is destined to become the second economic power in the world with inevitable repercussions benefiting its populations; repercussions which will not only be economic but above all political and social.
The recent choice of Peking as the host for the next Olympic games, is certainly a recognition of how much progress has already been made in this direction.
At the same time, Western countries have to tackle the aspects of capitalism, aspects which seem unable to protect the weakest social groups by assuring them of the minimum level of civil rights and dignities.
The path to complete integration between the two ideologies will certainly be a long one, but the course has now been fixed and it seems there is no turning back.
At the end of this path can only be a greater and more widespread well-being for all peoples of the world. We are climbing a mountain on opposite sides, it is true, but now we are nearly at the summit we are finally beginning to see each other and talk to each other.
Chinese and Italians already have a long tradition of dialogue, a tradition which dates back to when a dreamer amongst us decided to take on a long journey towards an unknown and beautiful land. That explorer was called Marco Polo.
So many things were gained by that voyage that we would not want to begin to list them for fear of missing something out, things that have come to fill our tables and change our way of dressing, from small everyday things to great philosophical concepts which have enriched our minds.
Today we still feel drawn by those paths, which even though no longer unknown, have not lost their fascination, and drawn by the same civilisation that for centuries has been beckoning our people.
China will become even closer. We are trying out this journey as our way of contributing, modestly, to reducing the distance for the years to come.
We are not novices to motorcycle tours; several of us have already been involved, through other clubs, in the organisation of other trips which have combined tourism with a social purpose: during the great Jubilee year of 2000 an expedition to the North Cape, and most recently, an Easter of solidarity in Kosovo for the people of Pec, hard-hit by the war, to whom we delivered food supplies and teaching materials which we left in the hands of our military colleagues based in the region.
The journey to China is a project of the utmost logistical and organisational difficulty which will strengthen us even further: our aim is to use the greatest number of resources possible to establish a ‘twin’ association with the Chinese police forces in order to set up a dialogue between our professions.
The route we had planned was via Tibet, but following the tragic terrorist attacks which may have upset the political stability worldwide, we felt it was appropriate to change our plans in order to avoid any risk to members of our expedition.
Our new itinerary is the following: Austria, Czech Republic, Poland, Byelorussia, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and China. In the capital cities of every country which we cross, we have planned meetings with local colleagues, to offer our message of solidarity and peace. We will make symbolic gestures, such as exchanges of the pennants of our respective forces and offering commemorative number-plates as a mark of our message of dialogue and collaboration.
Our work will be able to be followed daily via the internet, our team is planning to send reports and photos which document the most important events (www.motorforpeace.it). We have also planned to involve several schools so that children can take part and interact through us with their distant classmates.
We also hope, once the expedition has been organised, to be able to collect funds to distribute to charities through the involvement of the State Police chaplain for the Lazio Region, Don Angleo Oddi: our project, in which we are collaborating with Onlus Asia is aiming at setting up a clinic in Tibet. There is still much to do. Work is in progress. Our journey will be enriched by all the ideas and encouragement of those who are willing to help us make this great project a reality.
We have the use of six vehicles: five Aprilia Capo Nord motorbikes and a Mercedes jeep for technical-logistical support. There will be nine of us in the team, inspired with a great ambition; to succeed in our adventure, which in its own small way, will help to bring the people of the world closer together.