Sunderland and the Chinese city of Harbin are building on a Friendship Agreement that was first signed between the two cities in 2009 and renewed in 2014.
Council Leader, Councillor Graeme Miller, has been invited to Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang, to represent Sunderland at the China-Harbin International Sister City Conference from Friday 4 – Monday 7 January 2019.
Sunderland and Harbin have a strong history of International cooperation, ten schools in Sunderland who have partnerships Harbin schools and there is an active programme of exchanges and visits.
Sunderland University manages an office in Beijing and Shenzhen aiming to recruit more international students, with Chinese students making up one of the largest international groups studying at the university.
Cllr Miller is set to deliver a presentation, which will aim to highlight the far-reaching educational, cultural and economic benefits of the decade-long friendship with Harbin for Sunderland and its people.
Ten years after the friendship agreement was signed the two cities have taken big steps together towards cooperation, including multiple school partnerships, educational programmes and a number of trade missions.
Cllr Miller said: “I’m honoured to be invited to Harbin to represent the city of Sunderland at such an important meeting of leaders from cities across the globe. We are committed to developing our international partnership with Harbin and this event provides the ideal opportunity to deepen those links, explore future opportunities and to share experiences and ideas with people from other cities around the world.
“Since our partnership began almost 10 years ago, we have worked closely with our friends in Harbin to deliver a range of initiatives, with a particular focus on educational programmes. This has resulted in once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for headteachers, teachers and pupils to travel to Harbin to meet with partner schools, which has helped broaden the horizons and experiences of all those involved.
“Opportunities like this arm young people with the global awareness and competencies they need to work in a global economy. Having this level of insight and understanding of different cultures can really help them during later stages of life.
“We plan to use the visit as an opportunity to meet with a range of senior figures in Harbin to build upon these successes and to plan how we can continue to invest in the long-term economic development of our cities and the communities within them.”
During the visit representatives from Harbin Municipal Government, Harbin Education Bureau and Harbin Economic Development Zone will meet with Sunderland Council officials to discuss future plans between the two cities.