Chinese Mayor Here for Quake Discussions

17 June 2010

The Mayor of Tianjin - China's fifth-largest city and the centre of one of its biggest economic 'powerhouses' - is to visit Wellington this weekend to strengthen the relationship between the two cities - and to hold discussions about earthquake technology and public safety.

Mayor Huang Xingguo is to lead a group of about 40 government officials and business people on the visit - just over a week after Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast paid him a visit in Tianjin.

Among his activities on Saturday (19.06.10), Mr Xingguo will inspect the earthquake-strengthening work under way on the Embassy Theatre and visit Wellington City Council's Emergency Management Office in Thorndon.

His delegation will also take part in discussions and business and educational opportunities with Wellington leaders.

Tianjin, with a population of more than 12 million, is about 160 km to the south-east of China's capital, Beijing. It is home to the world's fifth-busiest port and is also at the centre of a vast manufacturing area specialising in high-technology, petrochemicals, shipbuilding, biopharmaceuticals and the aerospace industry. Airbus has established there, as has the likes of Motorola, Samsung and a host of other Fortune 500 companies. 

The city was at the centre, in 1976, of one of the most devastating and deadly earthquakes in history. Estimates of the number of people killed in the magnitude 7.8 Great Tangshan Quake vary wildly - from about 240,000 to as many as 780,000.

Mayor Prendergast says Wellington has a 'friendly city' relationship with Tianjin that dates back to 2001. Mr Xingguo will also take the opportunity to reaffirm a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in 2006.

She says it is a "nice piece of timing" that has led to Mr Xingguo's visit so soon after she met him in Tianjin last week while leading Wellington's business delegation to China.

"Mr Xingguo's visit to Wellington has been planned for many months. However we decided to pay him a visit last week as a matter of courtesy after our delegation conducted business meetings and visited Tianjin's earthquake bureau and emergency control centre."

Mayor Prendergast says during last week's visit she was present for the signing of an MOU for a major timber-processing joint-venture involving Wellington-based forestry company Forme Consulting.

She added that Tianjin officials also expressed interest in healthcare opportunities, earthquake engineering and 'green' technology.  

Under the terms of the memorandum of understanding, it is proposed that emergency-management and earthquake-engineering experts from both cities will take part in exchange programmes and that there will be an increased exchange of information.