Study visit to China
URBAN Intergoup representatives took part in a successful visit to China in July 2018. During one week, the participants gained knowledge, exchanged views and shared ideas on many issues related to sustainability and urban development between European and Chinese cities. Upon arrival in the city of Shenzhen, the first day was dedicated to the study of innovative solutions for urban management concerning water supply and transportation. Shenzhen lies along the eastern part of the Pearl River Delta megalopolis, bordering Hong Kong. The group visited the Shenzhen Integrated Transport Command Centre, a key unit responsible for controlling transport flow in the city of over 12.5 million inhabitants. MEPs saw a real-time data management on smart supervision platform. It allows Chinese authorities to supervise not only the whole fleet of busses (100% electric!) but also underground transport system, as well all available parking spaces in the city. Moreover, participants met representatives of the Shenzhen Water Group, the company responsible for water production, supply and sewage treatment services in the area.
The next day, the group was hosted by Huawei, one of the world’s largest networking and telecommunication companies but also one of the biggest Chinese owned companies. Upon arrival to the headquarters in Shenzhen, the group saw two meaningful expositions. The first one explored company’s R&D sector, which included a showcase of new mobile technologies (5G). The second exhibition of the Industry discussed key components of modern urban planning including Energy, Transportation, Finance and the concept of Smart Cities. Huawei experts explained innovative technologies , which have been developed to increase efficiency of city’s transportation systems including the management of civil aviation in the world’s largest airports. This was followed by a visit to the so-called ‘Road of Digital Transformation’ in the Huawei Enterprise Business Briefing Centre and a workshop in which both sides exchanged views on how new technological discoveries can aid modern urban planning.
The following days, the group had a guided tour over the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition which displays a remarkable multi-faceted transformation of the city over the past decades and discusses the many contemporary solutions for the modern planning of Shanghai. MEPs visited the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Planning and Land Resources, which holds key responsibilities including establishing legal framework for town and country planning. At Shanghai Environment Protection Bureau MEPs meet with authorities responsible for executing environmentally friendly policies acting against the proliferation of air pollution. MEPs had as well the opportunity to discover Shanghai as one of the biggest world’s transport hub by visiting the Shanghai Yangshan Deep Water Port. This world’s biggest automated container terminal built in 2017 one two islands is connected with the mainland by the 32,5 km long Donhai Bridge, the longest sea bridge in the world.
Upon the arrival in Zhengzhou, the group took part in a side event of the EU-China Summit: 13th EU-China Regional Policy High-Level Seminar on Regional Innovation and High-quality Development of Regional Economy opened by Ms. Corina Cretu, the EU commissioner for regional and
urban policy. The event was an occasion for representatives of Chinese and European cities to discuss regional innovation and cooperation. Lambert Van Nistelrooij, vice-president of the URBAN Intergroup, in his opening speech recalled longstanding support of the European Parliament for international urban cooperation. He stressed the importance of regional specialization: “ China has much higher speed in the conversion of knowledge into products and services. The electrification of public busses is the best example. We are also working on it, however our pace is lower. What can we learn from each other, without prejudice to the differences in our political systems? ” Jan Olbrycht, President of URBAN Intergroup, highlighted during the event that Chinese solutions attract European cities in multiple aspects. “What is happening in China right now is somewhat a unique experiment, which shows the great extent to which megacities can expand and still be able to maintain effective transportation system, healthcare, etc.” – he said. Later, he added: “Regardless of the differences of size between European and Chinese cities, they can still learn from each other in order to promote optimal solutions for urban areas.”
Picture: From the left: Jorid Sole (MEP), Lambert van Nistelrooij (MEP), Maria G. Zoana (MEP), Corina Cretu (EU Commissioner for Regional Policy), Miroslav Mikolasik, Jan Olbrycht (MEP).
On the final day, the European delegation travelled to Beijing and met with Mr. Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, Ambassador of the European Union to the People’s Republic of China. Afterwards, MEPs discovered Beijing’s most known historical site: the Forbidden City. In his conclusive remarks regarding the visit, MEP Jordi Solé, member of the URBAN Intergroup said: “During our visit, we had the opportunity to gain a first-hand experience about how the smart cities, such as Shenzhen, prosper. There, we could observe the most modern technologies applied in the management of megacities. As a result, such places are centres of huge data, which can be used by others to achieve a more effective sustainable development.” However, Mr. Solé noted that: ”On the other side of the coin, in China there is a level of control that no Western democracy would allow for, neither in the name of security nor the intelligent management of the cities. Therefore, the challenge is to apply technologies for sustainable urban development while respecting privacy and freedom.”