Slick cities

Updated: 2013-06-14 09:33

By Cecily Liu in London, Tuo Yannan in Brussels and Yang Yang in Beijing (China Daily)

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A helping hand

As Europe once lived through many other challenges of urbanization China battles with today, the continent's political and business leaders are sharing their expertise with China and looking for opportunities for commercial cooperation.

One partnership agreement signed in 2012 between China and the European Union is the EU-China Partnership on Sustainable Urbanization, which facilitates a range of meetings and discussions between government officials and businesses.

An example is the Mayor's Forum, which allows European mayors to talk about their experience in urban governance with their Chinese counterparts through regular face-to-face meetings.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso says Europe's local governments have many important lessons to offer their Chinese counterparts. One example is their expertise in maintaining cities' uniqueness and diversity in the urbanization process, which he believes is a good approach for Chinese cities to follow.

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Barroso also says that more decisions on urbanization should be made by China's local governments rather than the central government, to encourage each city's individuality.

The partnership has already resulted in many commercial partnerships between Chinese and European businesses, Barroso says.

He says one example is the EU-China Sustainable Urbanization Park, which is now being built in Shenyang as a pilot project under the partnership. The park incorporates many European and Chinese products and designs to promote awareness of sustainable urbanization.

China and the EU have also jointly funded a four-year research project started in March 2011 that facilitates academics on both sides to together analyze solutions for China's urbanization challenge.

Known as UrbaChina, the project is jointly managed by a consortium of 11 Chinese and European research institutions, whose academics meet regularly to exchange ideas and share research.

Francois Gipouloux, research director of France's National Centre for Scientific Research and coordinator of the UrbaChina project, says a strong comparative approach has been implemented in the group's research to encourage long-term cooperation between Europe and China's government, academics and businesses.

"Although Europe and China have followed different urbanization paths, there is nonetheless room for mutual learning on important areas such as urban mobility, connectivity, innovation, environmental protection, or funding for infrastructure and services," Gipouloux says.

Meanwhile, Britain signed an agreement with China in 2007 to foster business collaboration in sustainable urban development, energy saving, resource management and environmental protection called the UK-China Sustainable Cities Initiative.

Since its launch, many Chinese government delegations have visited the UK to learn more about the country's pioneering low-carbon construction projects, says Peter Millman, of UK Trade and Investment, and coordinator of the project.

Millman also takes delegations of British businesses with specialties in urban planning, architecture, engineering and other related sectors to discuss business opportunities in China twice a year. He says visits take place mostly in Wuhan, Changsha, Chongqing and Hangzhou, four Chinese cities the partnership agreement focuses on.

"This is not just us going in and doing the projects; it's more the case of finding Chinese partners, and staying in the China market for the long term. China's urbanization process provides huge opportunities, and we want to help China in the long term," Millman says.

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Susanna Ma and Jiang Xueqing contributed to this story.

Slick cities


( China Daily European Weekly 06/14/2013 page6)

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