A series of special events is planned to mark a decade of civic partnership between Nottingham and its Chinese sister city Ningbo this month.
The cities’ special relationship will be set in stone when a pair of new Chinese lion statues gifted to the city by Ningbo are officially unveiled on the University of Nottingham’s Highfields Park campus on Monday September 21st.
This symbolic ceremony will be followed by a civic dinner for business representatives and civic guests from Ningbo at the Council House. An education seminar and an internationally important business conference making links between Britain and China will also be held to mark the anniversary.
Nottingham’s relationship with Ningbo – a port city of 7.6m people south of Shanghai – began 11 years ago when the University of Nottingham became the first foreign university to set up a campus in China. The university estimates its links with China are worth £80m, with a student population of over 5,200 in Ningbo, 3,000 Chinese students in Nottingham and research and development contracts with Chinese businesses. The university’s Chinese students are estimated to be worth £42m to the Nottingham economy.
Civic links began in 2005 and have since developed into trade and commerce links. Over the last ten years, Nottingham has gained a strong presence in Ningbo and elsewhere in China, leading to a number of opportunities for Nottingham’s economy including research work agreements being signed with Avic, a Chinese aerospace group, and a number of Nottingham based businesses, including Asiana, Benoy, and Romax establishing a strong presence in China.
Nottingham’s special connection with Ningbo was marked last year with the naming of the new steel bowstring bridge spanning the city’s Ring Road, as the Ningbo Friendship Bridge. It has now started carrying tram services and a delegation from Ningbo including the Vice Mayor of Ningbo Mr Wang will travel across it on a special VIP tram as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations.
The unveiling of the stone lions in Nottingham will be followed in November by a replica Robin Hood statue taking pride of place on the university’s campus in Ningbo as a gift from Nottingham.
Nottingham will also host its largest UK/China city-to-city event yet, marking the strides it has made in its relationships with China. More than 200 businesses from Britain and China are due to attend the Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) China Forum 2015, including over 110 Ningbo delegates and representatives from the Chinese Embassy. Previously held in Birmingham and Manchester, the event is organised by the China-Britain Business Council and this year will take place at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel on September 22nd.
Around 40 businesses are visiting from China, with a combined sales total of £2billion and workforce of 17,000. The intention is to provide a platform for small British businesses to make connections with Chinese firms, and vice versa, to develop opportunities.
The Education Cooperation Conference will celebrate ten years of schools in Nottingham twinning with schools in Ningbo. It will highlight the benefits that this international relationship has on pupils and explore ways to share this best practice to encourage more schools to twin with China.
Nottingham City Council Leader, Councillor Jon Collins, said: “We have developed some very strong links with Ningbo over the past ten years, initially through Nottingham University’s pioneering move to establish a campus there, and more recently establishing some excellent reciprocal trade and commerce connections.
“Nottingham is now established in Ningbo and beyond in China, meaning we are ahead of many cities in terms of trading in China and bringing Chinese businesses here.
“As well as celebrating that enduring relationship, we are proud to be hosting some key events which will further strengthen those links and open up more business opportunities between the two countries.”
Professor Hai-Sui Yu, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Global Engagement at The University of Nottingham said: “Our links to Ningbo began in 2004 with the establishment of the first sino-foreign collaborative university in China (The University of Nottingham Ningbo China). Our pioneering relationship has gone from strength to strength, with growing student numbers and research funding and industry and government partnerships in fields such as marine economy and technology, digital economy, advanced materials and sustainable energy technologies.”