Over the Summer I took a private visit to China and in particular to the city of Xiamen. In 1983 Cardiff became the first city in the UK to twin (or ‘sister’ as they call it) with a city in China and over 30 years later the relationship has remained strong.
During my visit, I was delighted to be able to meet the Mayor of Xiamen Mr Lui Keqing which was even broadcast on Chinese television! As a result, we have agreed to explore new ways in which we could develop the long standing friendship between our two cities further. My visit was also an opportunity to learn more about how the city has responded to the rapid increase in its population (with over 5 million in the wider city region) as well as several major new infrastructure projects. These include a second new airport to be completed by 2020, a new metro system and continued expansion of a popular Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) network. The scale of the transport network was very different to our own city, with 2.5 million passengers carried a day by the Xiamen Public Transport body compared to around 100,000 a day on Cardiff Bus! Yet many of the challenges faced by both cities were similar.
Xiamen is a pioneer in ‘Free Trade’ as one of the four special Economic Zones set up in China in the early 1980’s to promote trade and investment in the country. It is also a major tourist destination (one of the top 5 in China) with over 2 million visitors every year – a figure the city would like to see grow further.
Traditionally, twinning relationships between major cities have focussed on cultural or school exchanges. Indeed, Cardiff University has had a longstanding partnership with Xiamen University and I know several local schools, including; Lansdowne and Ysgol Pencae have sent pupils to Xiamen as part of Cardiff University’s China-Wales Schools Project.
However, these links are also increasingly important as platforms for more mutual trade, investment and research opportunities. Large and growing markets for Welsh goods and services, like China, therefore offer real economic benefits to the wider Cardiff City Region and can support jobs. That’s why Welsh Government have for some time targeted China and also why the Cardiff Business Council (www.cardiffbusinesscouncil.com) has recently opened a new office in the capital, Beijing in partnership with Cardiff Metropolitan University.
It’s also why my visit could not have come at a more opportune moment. I’ll keep you posted on any developments of course, but in the meantime if you’d like to experience our ‘sister city’ for yourself it’s possible to fly direct to Xiamen from Cardiff Airport via Amsterdam with KLM.
Ely and Caerau Hub launched!
I recently attended the launch of the new ‘hub’ community centre in west Cardiff (Ely and Caerau). This project is part of a wider council strategy across the city to provide services in a smaller number of buildings, with a wider range of support, not just from the council but from other organisations as well.
In Ely and Caerau the community were consulted on a variety of options which led to the library and housing offices opposite the new hub being relocated into the hub building on Cowbridge Road West (next to Ely Fire Station). The results are impressive with a new café and an increase in the number of residents accessing the services, including the new library.
This project will also release the two other sites for much needed affordable homes in the area.
Staff at the hub told me that the residents on the whole are happy with the significant investment that has been made in these new facilities, which has been possible because the running costs of running fewer buildings are much lower. This will help the council to sustain services in this area at a time when we will have much less money available.
You can contact the Ely and Caerau Community Hub by visiting www.cardiff.gov.uk/thehub or calling 029 2087 3800.
AT Branding Project
The City of Cardiff Council is participating in a European funded project called ‘AT.Brand’ which brings Cardiff together with the cities of Dublin, Liverpool, La Rochelle and Faro as well as the Conference of Atlantic Arc Cities to identify and explore innovations in city and place branding.
It’s widely recognised that traditional approaches to city branding which concentrate on visual identity without a thorough examination of the narrative supporting a brand can severely limit that brand’s effectiveness. AT.BRAND seeks to address this issue by calling on partner cities to come up with innovative local actions that support integrated city branding.
In Cardiff the aim is to capture the essence of our city by engaging with people who work and live here in Cardiff with the view to shaping our city’s brand for external audiences. To achieve this Council officers are working closely with Cardiff Business Council and Media Wales to develop a digital platform to capture stories, ideas, images and endorsement from local communities which will be used to create a vibrant, dynamic and authentic view of Cardiff.
AT.BRAND operates at the heart of Cardiff’s communities, providing a unique insight into community engagement and making the place brand really live within our city.
The project is supported by European funding and runs up to June 2015.
The Cardiff Debate events will continue throughout September.
To keep up to date with the latest developments, you can email the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow our Facebook and Twitter pages @CardiffDebate and #CardiffDebate.