Machiavelli in China

Valdo Spini - President of a committee for a book that had been not yet completed...
Valdo Spini – President of a committee for a book that 500 years ago had not been written nor printed yet…

Italians love celebrations, monuments, official ceremonies. They are, after all, a demonstration of democracy at work because they give a chance to everybody to become a president, vice president, member of the board, of something.

Now we know that we have a State sponsored committee for the celebrations of five centuries of the writing (not publishing) of the Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli (1469 – 1527). Normally  it is the publication day that set in motion such celebrations – but the Prince was published posthumously in 1532.  In our case inside a Roman palace someone decided that it will be the ‘probable’ day of completing the manuscript that really count, even knowing that Machiavelli had worked on it well after 1513. The provisional title of the draft was De Principatibus and the dedication to Lorenzo de’ Medici, as well as the last chapter, were added later.

An article written by Dino Messina on the daily newspaper Corriere della Sera on 26 of May 2013 tells to the readers that the University of Tianjin in China has organized an international congress on Machiavelli and Valdo Spini, a former PSI politician, now part of the PD (democratic party) was invited to chair a ‘Committee for the V centenary of the completing of the Prince.’ At the same time Messina pointed out that in Italy we cannot find money to complete and publish the critical Opera Omnia of Machiavelli, an heroic work carried out  by the small publisher ‘Salerno Editrice.’

Messina add also that two years before a professor of Italian at the Strasbourg University, Emanuele Cutinelli Rendina revealed that the publication of Machiavelli’s diplomatic papers with notes was made possible only thanks to the money provided by a Swiss based foundation!

Machiavelli star in Cina ma non in Italia

But here comes the catch: on the other side of the world, in China, there is a publisher, Jilin Publishing Group, in far away Jilin Province, bordering North Korea, that is completing the translation in Chinese of the  Opera Omnia of the Florentine thinker.

The title of such international meeting, staged on 25-26 May, is : ‘Machiavelli and Modern Politics: a quincentenary celebration.’ Again the story of the 500 years. But even not taking into consideration Valdo Spini, a politician, the academic line up seems indeed impressive: Diego Quaglioni – Università di Trento, James Hankins – University of Harvard, Peter Stacey – UCLA (University of California Los Angeles), Stephen J. Milner – University of Manchester, Valentina Lepri – Villa I Tatti, Nicoletta Marcelli – Villa I Tatti, Mark Jurdjevic – University of York (England).

I tried to locate some news about this event on the Chinese press but I was unable to find anything, which seems to confirm my idea that few Chinese are really interested in Machiavelli at all.

I wrote a comment on Messina’s blog doubting that there could be a sincere interest on Machiavelli in China, because no real connection or discussion with modern society will be allowed, and not doing so the whole matter boil down to an exercise in literary archaeology, or a parade for the made in Italy. Furthermore I was adding that even in Italy only an elite really care about Machiavelli, proof of this fact is the fact that the little money needed to complete our critical Opera Omnia is still missing. On the other hand we spend money to send Valdo Spini to China…

Apparently on this last point I was wrong. On the same blog the politician himself and the Italian Embassy in Beijing commented that no money was paid for his trip, being all provided by the Chinese university of Tianjin. OK, this last accusation I take it back.

With my critical notes I don’t want to spoil this or any other celebration but as far as I am concerned I prefer to wait 2032 – the real 500th years anniversary of the publishing of The Prince – and then drink a glass of Chianti to honour the great soul of the Florentine writer.


The first Edition of Il Principe by Machiavelli
The first edition of Il Principe by Machiavelli


4 commenti su “Machiavelli in China”

  1. Such a wonderful story! It reminds me of a delegation of a two politicians, or rather ex politicians, who came last year in HK trying to sell polluted pieces of Marghera land to Chinese Funds.

  2. Only a bibliophile like Angelo Paratico could reveal the absurd and the hilarious of a dubious anniversary involving governments, critics and the academia across continents. And hard to make sense of the Chinese side’s enlightened involvement, this Jilin publishing house and the Tianjin University gathering…


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