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She found that people were kind, but she says, "People were not happy at all." Zepp-La Rouche also traveled to Qingdao, a seaside city in Shandong province that had a lot of German influence, as well as to Tianjin and Beijing.
In Beijing, she toured places like the Summer Palace and was even tempted to learn Chinese, but she soon realized that it would be difficult and take a long time. But anyway, it really started my interest in China," she says.
Back in Germany, Zepp-La Rouche tried to look for a theory to fix the problem that haunted her.
She found Lyndon La Rouche, a US political activist better known for launching the La Rouche Movement.
Belt and Road Initiative Zepp-La Rouche was excited when President Xi Jinping unveiled the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013.
The initiative, which comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, is a development concept proposed by Xi to focus on connectivity and cooperation between countries. The Schiller Institute she founded in 1984 also has published significantly on the subject.
China was still in the midst of the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), and as the ship had to be repaired in Shanghai, Zepp-La Rouche had time to observe Chinese society and interact with local people.
I want to see what the world looks like," she tells China Daily.
"We were proud to be part of the historical moment of the birth of a new paradigm of mankind.... She says she was extremely impressed by Xi's speech, calling it "very rich" and reflecting the ideas of a Confucian philosopher and harmony.
The Schiller Institute also has sponsored conferences in cities across the US, including San Francisco, Detroit and New York, promoting Belt and Road and urging the US to participate.
In May, Zepp-La Rouche went to Beijing to participate in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation, a meeting that drew 29 heads of state and representatives from more than 100 countries.
"I was really happy to be able to participate because we've been fighting for this for so long.
Helga Zepp-La Rouche sees Belt and Road Initiative as fulfilling lifelong pursuit by her and her husband, US political activist Lyndon La Rouche Helga Zepp-La Rouche was 23 in 1971 when she embarked on a Swedish cargo ship to travel the world.