Hamburg, the largest port in Germany, boasts solid economic ties with China, and Hamburg Mayor Ole Von Beust is very proud of the city's close cooperative partnership with China.
"One in three containers passing through the port of Hamburg goes to or comes from China, making that country our number one trade partner," Von Beust said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua on Tuesday.
People could easily figure out Chinese elements in the second biggest city of Germany. Tourists visiting the Hamburg harbor can see huge ships branded Chinese shipping companies like "COSCO" and "China shipping," and the containers marked "COSCO" and "China Shipping" are piled up like small mountains on the berths.
In the general assembly factory of Airbus in the suburb of Hamburg, aircraft made for Chinese airline companies are under assembly; and in the
downtown of Hamburg, the Chinese Teahouse mimicking "Yuyuan Garden" of Shanghai attracts people from home and afar.
Von Beust frankly admitted that due to the global economic downturn, trade volume between Hamburg and China has declined by 27 percent in the first six months of 2009.
"But as I said, as international trade flows continue to stabilize, our trade volume with China will return to higher levels," the mayor said.
Von Beust has been on the current post since October 2001, and he has visited China three times, in 2002, 2004 and 2007, respectively.
"During those visits, I was able to witness the country's rapid and impressive economic development. Those changes were easy to see in the
growth of the Pudong skyline or the construction sites in new residential areas such as Lingang New City, to name but two examples from our sister
city," he said.
Von Beust said he plans to lead a big economic delegation to China in May next year to promote economic cooperation and investment between Hamburg and cities in China.
Shanghai, the biggest port and financial center of China, is the sister city of Hamburg, which has set up a liaison office in Shanghai to advise and support its companies that do business in China.
"We are currently figuring out how to expand those services in order to spur business activities between our cities, particularly in regard to the upcoming Expo," he said.
During the Shanghai Expo next year, Hamburg is to offer a special gift called "Hamburg House" to its sister city. The Hamburg House covers 570
square meters in the Shanghai Expo area and it is still under construction.
The house uses solar and geothermal energy as well as ventilation systems to make its energy consumption 86 percent less than ordinary
buildings of the same size. It will consume only 50 kilowatts per square meter per year.
When the Shanghai Expo concludes, the house, as a gift, will be transferred to the Shanghai municipality, serving as a symbol for the
friendship between the two cities.
Thanks to excellent practice and planning for environment protection, Hamburg has been selected by the European Commission as "European Green
Capital" for the year 2011. Von Beust said Hamburg and Shanghai could cooperate more on urban sustainable development and environment protection.
Von Beust is familiar with Chinese culture. He told Xinhua that Lao She's "Rickshaw Boy" ("Luotuo Xiangzi" in Chinese) has been widely read in Germany, and the same for Chinese classics such as "The dream of the Red Mansions." He even mentioned American Chinese Qiu Xiaolong's detective stories.
"On Chinese philosophy, I would say that Confucius and Lao Tse are very well known in Germany," he said.
In recent years, the Hamburg city government, under Von Beust's leadership, has hosted the Chinese culture month every two years.
In September 2008 alone, the city staged a series of diversified activities called "China Time," such as dragon boat racing, economic forums, academic symposiums and Chinese-speaking contests, igniting a Chinese cultural fever in the city and across the country at large.