Jinan, capital of East China’s Shandong province, has been ramping up efforts to strengthen exchanges and cooperation ties with foreign cities, pushing forward its opening-up to the outside world, officials said.

An online discussion conference that gathers representatives from Jinan, its sister cities and different organizations is held in Jinan, capital of East China’s Shandong province, on Oct 19. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Those remarks were made on Oct 19 at an online discussion conference organized by the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Jinan Committee in association with Jinan’s Foreign Affairs Office.

Representatives from Jinan’s sister cities and friendly cooperation cities of countries including the UK, Japan, South Korea, Russia and Finland, as well as participants from international friendship associations, organizations and media outlets took part in the event via online video links to explore higher level cooperation opportunities or share their wisdom with Jinan.

“The deepening ties with sister cities have provided a bridge for cross-regional exchanges and cooperation,” said Lei Jie, chairwoman of the CPPCC Jinan Committee, at the conference. “They have become an important channel for cities across different countries to share resources and achieve mutually beneficial results.”

Since establishing relationships with its first sister city Wakayama, Japan, in 1983, Jinan currently has 27 international sister cities and maintains friendly cooperative exchanges with 52 foreign cities across five continents, including Sacramento in the United States, Coventry in the UK, Vantaa in Finland, as well as Nizhni Novgorod in Russia.

The cooperation ties have even been increasing despite the impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the COVID-19 outbreak, 19 international organizations and cities sent letters and messages expressing sympathy for Jinan. Also, Jinan donated 200,000 masks to 25 sister cities and organizations in Italy, South Korea, Cambodia, Britain and Japan.

“Thanks to the strong support of our sister cities, Jinan’s total volume of imports and exports increased by 28 percent last year while strictly fighting the COVID-19 pandemic,” Lei said.

Tian Ying, director of Jinan’s Foreign Affairs Office and president of the Jinan People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, shared the same sentiment.

Tanzanian exhibitors introduce their products to the public at the International Sister Cities Commodity Exposition in Jinan, Shandong province on Oct 16, 2019. [Photo/VCG]

Jinan has been attaching great importance to deepening international exchanges, especially with its sister cities and friendly cooperation cities, she said at the conference.

John McNicholas, mayor of Coventry, said: “We are so proud of our relationship with Jinan and of the twinning movement. Our international links are making us a better city. It helped us welcome students from around the world, people of all races and faiths, and we embrace their cultures and their ideas.”

In addition, Jinan has created a better environment for international exchanges and cooperation. As a central city in the Yellow River Basin, Jinan received approval from the State Council, China’s Cabinet, in April to build the Jinan Start-up Area for Growth Drivers Transformation.

The region will be a pilot area for China’s industrial policies, which will provide a broader space for in-depth cooperation between Jinan and its sister cities.

The “Jinan international sister city garden project” was launched to build international gardens in the city to showcase iconic landscapes from Jinan’s sister cities, as well as to create a healthier and more natural environment.

To date, a rose-themed garden featuring the style of Kazanlak, a city in Bulgaria, and a Lithuanian-style garden have been built. Gardens will also be completed that feature the styles of Siem Reap province in Cambodia and Vantaa.

“This is a special year for the relationship between Jinan and Vantaa, as we are celebrating 20 years of sister city friendship between our cities,” said Ritva Viljanen, mayor of Vantaa.

“During these 20 years, we have developed many prosperous connections. We have created opportunities for our businesses to meet and establish new contacts, and possibilities to grow,” Ritva added.

At the conference, Lei quoted an old Chinese saying that goes “Nothing, not even mountains and oceans, can separate people with shared goals and vision”.

She expressed hopes that all sides work together to explore new approaches for mutual communication and cooperation to advance higher level of opening-up.

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