EXPLAINED: What the China deal means for Rocky
KNOWN for its ancient temples and scenic landscapes and famous for its white marble, jade and vinegar, Zhenjiang, People's Republic of China, is Rockhampton's newest global partner.
During a trade mission to Asia in November last year, Rockhampton Regional Council and Zhenjiang formally signed a Friendship City Agreement, signifying the beginning of new exchanges between the two cities.
The city of more than three million is an important transportation hub, owing to its strategic location at the intersection of the Yangtze River and the Grand Canal.
It absorbs a huge market demand from 22 cities in the Yangtze River Delta, the world's third longest river, and its industry sectors occupy 60% of the city's GDP.
Major industries include chemicals, paper production, automotive, electro-mechanics, high-tech, bio-technology, construction and new materials.
Rockhampton Region Mayor said the invitation to become a Friendship city was an extremely attractive offer given its strong industry sectors that have been expanding 10-20% annually in the last ten years.
"This was an opportunity to partner with a city that is committed to trade and business opportunities that support agribusiness, aviation, tourism and education,” Cr Strelow said.
"Sister Cities between Asia and Australia are much more than just a cultural and educational exchange, it's about attracting investment and export opportunities in our priority markets.”
Reflecting on the trade mission just three months ago, Mayor Strelow said she could draw many comparisons between the two cities.
"Obviously the population and age of our two cities are very different, but I was struck by the many similarities between Zhenjiang and Rockhampton,” she said.
"Walking the streets of the historic heart of Zhenjiang, we found that the city has put a lot of effort into restoring the laneways and encouraging tourism.
"We visited a large inner city park that reminded me so much of our Botanic Gardens, and it is obviously much loved in the community.
Cr Strelow added that the city, which is historically important to China, is promoted as a honeymoon destination with its natural beauty.
"I have visited China before, and to be honest, I found it a little strange on my first visit, but Zhenjiang was a very comfortable place to be - they even had good coffee.”
"One of the big attractions, particularly for westerners is to walk the streets that Marco Polo is said to have walked.”
Just two weeks after signing the Friendship City Agreement, a Zhenjiang business delegation flew to Rockhampton and was introduced to the local industries at a business forum.
The delegation encouraged those interested in leveraging their business from the new partnership to get in contact.
"As a result, we now have a professional services business and a resources company in talks with the Zhenjiang government for potential business opportunities, which is a fantastic outcome already,” Mayor Strelow said.
In addition to helping facilitate these new partnerships, Cr Strelow said council was working closely with businesses and the Zhenjiang municipal government to attract food-focussed delegations to the Region.
"Particularly in the lead up to Beef Australia 2018, we are making an effort to expand on their interest in our beef industry including small crops, agriculture and any other relevant investment and trade opportunities.”
Some of the organisations council will be working with include the Zhenjiang Bureau of Commerce, China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), Zhenjiang International Investment Promotion Centre, Zhenjiang Dalu Aerospace and Aviation Co., and Zhenjiang Academy of Agricultural sciences.
The two cities are also focussing on traditional ties with education and cultural exchanges in the pipeline after two education MOU's were signed during the trade mission last year.
An MOU between CQUniversity and Jiangsu University will be used as a platform to attract relevant industry leaders as the universities begin to establish exchange programs, and the MOU between council and the Zhenjiang municipal government will try to attract their reciprocal visit to showcase the region's school and tertiary sectors.
The region's education industry has expressed a strong interest in working closely with the China market to recruit Chinese students and since September last year, council has been driving a negotiation with Zhenjiang Education Centre for International Exchange (ZECIE) in the following areas:
Establishment of sister schools and exchange of teachers and students
Language teaching exchange between English and Chinese
Development of Australian-Chinese Culture Classroom through sister school arrangement
Study tours to Rockhampton
Vocational training of Zhenjiang students in Rockhampton
Rockhampton is the second Australian city to have formal ties with Zhenjiang which has already established sister city relationships with 16 cities in 12 countries from five continents.