"China's open door will not be closed, but will only be opened wider and wider," said China’s President Xi Jinping. Central to China’s opening up to the world is Qingdao - the city whose name means “Green Island” is the main node in the New Asia Europe continental bridge and economic corridor.
Qingdao, the city in Eastern China’s Shandong Province, is rapidly making a name for itself on the global scene as a major draw, especially for creative industry and technology. The city secured foreign investment amounting to over USD 98 billion last year, resulting from trade contacts with 216 countries and regions across the world. But Qingdao’s largest trading partner in Europe is Germany, reaching a total import and export volume of USD 2.37 billion last year.
It was in the spirit of fostering this rich cultural and economic collaboration that the city of Qingdao sent a delegation to Germany this June. Led by ZHU Hua, the Secretary-General of the Qingdao Municipal Committee, the group travelled to Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Kiel, among others, visiting businesses and local institutions with the goal to promote friendly economic and cultural cooperation between the German towns and the city on the Yellow Sea.
“Island of Youth” is the name of the Qingdao City Picture Exhibition on display at the Hamburg Museum of History in June, a highlight of the visit from China. The photography at the show is by local Qingdao photographer FA Lei and other photographers, showcasing Qingdao as an open, modern, dynamic and stylish city. The same spirit is carried by the ‘Greeting from Qingdao’ business bus, which will be making its way through European cities this summer.
Qingdao and Germany are deeply rooted. Formal relations between China and Germany were established as far back as 1861, and increasing globalisation has only strengthened these ties as the world has moved from raw materials into an era of scientific and technical innovation. "The more complex and changeable the situation is, the more communication and exchanges are needed,” said Qingdao spokesperson. The delegation visited the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, the University of Hamburg, and the German Mechanical Engineering Industry Association - Qingdao is rich with vocational education institutions which create plentiful opportunities for open cooperation. “We will come out more to invite and attract investment and to negotiate and cooperate with each other, so friends from all over the world will know more about Qingdao".
Open, modern, dynamic and stylish are four key words for Qingdao - this is a city that’s outward-looking and open to new experiences. The coastal town has a rich cultural history and a beautiful scenery, with mountains, beaches, forests and islands. This dynamic and modern international metropolis is central to China’s open door policy, with skyscrapers nudging shoulders over bustling streets that carry a sense of youthfulness. Several German companies are already established in Qingdao - Volkswagen Group set up a production base in Qingdao alongside FAW Group last year, while this spring, the Prime Ministers of China and Germany celebrated the signing of the Airbus H135 helicopter project, now in operation in Qingdao.
Industry, capital, talent and technology are the four chains that form the basis of Qingdao’s vigorous focus on innovation. In May, the Global Venture Capital Conference was held in the city, with over 1,000 venture capitalists and entrepreneurs in attendance as ten new policies were issued by the city to further attract global venture capital - Qingdao continues to improve conditions for enterprise investment and trade. An international Fashion City is already under construction, with multi-cultural influences creating a dynamic environment that’s attractive to young people to live and start businesses. Qingdao has also become China’s City of Film, with over 40 world class studios and full film production capabilities that competes on a global scale.
Germany is the largest source of European foreign investment in Qingdao, having invested in 356 projects worth in total USD 2.6 billion in the city as per the end of March. The ties between Qingdao and Germany are numerous and not just about business: the Qingdao International Beer Festival points to a shared interest in brewing, and a number of cities have established close ties with Qingdao including Regensburg, Mannheim, and Dusseldorf. Bayern Munchen has even set up a football school in Qingdao, where the Sino-German Eco-Park is the first sustainable development project of its kind. The Sino-German Eco-Park has been praised as a "beacon project in the ecological field between the Chinese and German governments, and a model of Sino-German bilateral cooperation".
In this modern era of cooperation, Germany and Qingdao already have strong foundations that go beyond just business - this is a cultural exchange that’s had years to mature and will surely yield more fruit in the years to come. The next chapter of this international collaboration will be written this autumn, when the Qingdao German Business Week is held in China. This will bring with it new chances to continue this beautiful friendship, and discover new and creative ways to continue this bloom into the future.