Former presidents of the Wellington Xiamen Association, including Chris Lipscombe (seated first from left, front row) attend the celebrations for the 35th anniversary of Wellington-Xiamen Sister City relations. [Photo provided to en.fao.xm.gov.cn]
Last year, Wellington and Xiamen celebrated the 35th anniversary of their relationship as sister cities.
Theater, arts and music exchanges made possible by this sister city relationship have enriched the cultural environment of both cities. There are strong educational and research links between our schools and universities. New opportunities are opening up for online commerce. As both cities emerge from restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wellington and Xiamen are renewing their friendship and exploring new possibilities together.
Ever since the signing of the sister city agreement between Wellington and Xiamen in 1987, people-to-people connections have been central to the success of bilateral relations. Events, exchanges and projects have been planned and implemented by members of Wellington Xiamen Association (WXA), supported by Wellington City Council and run by volunteers.
The annual placement of two paediatric specialists from Xiamen in Wellington Hospital, which was organised with the assistance of WXA, was for many years a productive and professional connection between our two cities. Most recently, exchanges involving painters, sculptors and photographers organised by WXA have resulted in wonderful exhibitions of art in Wellington and Jimei. Every year, WXA has been involved in the local celebrations surrounding the Chinese Spring Festival.
Thanks to these efforts, many people in Wellington are aware of the city's relationship with Xiamen and have developed a better understanding of Chinese life and culture. People from Xiamen who are living and working in Wellington, including the Mandarin Language Assistants working in our schools, have become our friends.
During my time as Vice-President and President of Wellington Xiamen Association, I have had the opportunity to travel to Xiamen many times. Xiamen has always welcomed me and made me feel at home, or as the locals say, hěnshūfú很舒服.
In 2013, the focus of my work shifted and I stopped traveling to Xiamen. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and no one was traveling anywhere. Fast forward to 2023, when the invitation came to attend a friendship forum in Fujian, my first thought was to add a few days to the trip so that I could see my friends in Xiamen again.
Ten years after my last visit, I can see that some things are still the same. Xiamen University is still a beautiful, tranquil oasis in the heart of Xiamen. Downtown Xiamen is still a busy, bustling city center.
Some things, however, are different. Upgrading of the train station is complete and high-speed trains now connect Xiamen with other cities in Shanghai and the provinces of Fujian and Zhejiang. There is also a new cross-border e-commerce industrial park that is well-positioned to handle customs, shipping, freight forwarding and order fulfilment for goods from around the world.
Xiamen has developed a flourishing film industry over the last decade. The city is now home to China's Golden Rooster Awards (the Chinese equivalent of the Oscars) and Film Festival. Xiamen also has a vision to become a creative hub for filmmaking in China. Xiamen University, for example, is developing a film school with the aim of positioning the university as a center for high-quality, innovative film training in China.
Wellington is a UNESCO City of Film and has a thriving screen production industry of its own. As such, it will be working with Xiamen to seek ways in which their screen and creative industries as well as innovation and education sectors can cooperate.
Last year, I was fortunate to be able to join city officials, volunteers and well-wishers to celebrate the 35th anniversary of our sister city relationship. At an event that was live-streamed in Wellington and Xiamen, six other former presidents of Wellington and I received certificates acknowledging our service.
This year, I had the chance to meet friends again in Xiamen, and to welcome them to Wellington. There's nothing like the warmth of real, person-to-person connections. We're not just sister cities. We're family.
Former Wellington Xiamen Association President Chris Lipscombe (center) receives his certificate of appreciation from then Mayor of Wellington Andy Foster (left) and China Embassy to New Zealand Minister Counsellor Wang Genhua (right). [Photo provided to en.fao.xm.gov.cn]
Chris Lipscombe, president of the New Zealand China Friendship Society, at Xiamen University. [Photo provided to en.fao.xm.gov.cn]
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