Manchester City Council

Wuhan Too

One of the down sides of short stay long haul flights is the absence of sleep. I'm writing this at 10.30pm Thursday UK time, but 6.30am Friday Chinese time, having been up since around 5 and thought it might be useful to fill in some of the detail of how I'm physically spending my time here. As an aside to that, the Manchester delegation is fifty two strong, largely from the business sector, higher education , and the arts world, and they all have their own programme of meetings whilst they are in Wuhan. It's not a coach tour!

Arrived here at 10.10am yesterday. My first meeting was at 11.30am with the Governor of Hubei Province so had to get changed at the airport and go straight there. Hubei is around the size of England and Wales and Wuhan is its principal city. This was the first of two formal meetings. The delegations sit in a horseshoe with the Governor and the Ambassador ( as head of the UK delegation ) at the head. The rest of the two delegations sit opposite each other in hierarchical order. I sit next to the Ambassador, the Consul-General next to me and so on. The meeting begins with a short speech from Governor Wang, followed by the Ambassador, followed by me, followed by the Vice-Governor. We exchange gifts and that's it, although having done a number of these previously I can say that this was a very positive meeting.

After a brief gap to check into my hotel I go to the Wuhan Urban Planning Exhibition Hall to look at Wuhan's development plans, and an exhibition that includes an astonishing model of the city as planned the size of a five-a-side pitch. Wuhan is 25% water and 30% other green space and although they intend to double in size over the next ten years to twenty million people, they also intend to maintain that greenness. Having said that, my two days here will include a lot of time in a car as most of the meetings are a good thirty minutes travel time from each other.

Next is another formal meeting - with Vice-Mayor Liu of Wuhan which again is very positive. This is immediately followed by a signing ceremony of six different agreements and then a UK week reception and banquet hosted by Wuhan city government. Although there is food, nobody actually eats much as most of the time, after the welcoming toasts, is spent going round the tables making introductions and exchanging business cards.

The last event of the day is a performance of " Eight ". This has been put together by HOME and Brighter Sound from Manchester working with VOX and K11 in China. The piece, put together by five artists and musicians from Manchester working with their counterparts in Wuhan, is a fascinating combination of film and live music soundtrack and takes place with a large and young audience in a venue that would look quite at home in the Northern Quarter. I get back to the hotel just after 10 and that's it for the day.

This morning starts at 10.30 with the launch of the UK China Smart Green Cities Planning and Governance report, something Manchester has been actively involved, and Smart Cities is an area that has been identified as a priority for further collaboration with Wuhan. The day then goes on with a series of meetings and events, including the ribbon-cutting event at the Consulate, ending with a dinner for Manchester alumni, and winding up around 8.30pm.



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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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