Mayors in China US, China
Mayors Sign "Cities 2000" Accord
By Dave Gatton and Rich Anderson
The United States Conference of Mayors, as part of its Cities 2000 Initiative, has signed a major agreement to establish formal relations with the China Association of Mayors. The agreement calls for the two mayoral organizations to exchange information on a variety of key urban issues ranging from environmental infrastructure to early childhood development.
The Memorandum of Cooperation, signed on June 21, 2000, was the culmination of eight days of meetings in four Chinese cities: Beijing, Xian, Suzhou, and Shanghai. The U.S. delegation of mayors was headed by Lynn Mayor Patrick J. McManus, and included Hempstead Mayor James A.Garner, Dearborn Mayor Michael A. Guido, North Little Rock Mayor Patrick Henry Hays, and Danbury Mayor Gene F. Eriquez.
At the signing ceremony in Suzhou, Mayor McManus said, "This agreement represents the starting point of a long and fruitful relationship between Chinese and American cities." The agreement was co-signed by Madam Tao Siliang, Secretary General of the China Association of Mayors, who hosted the U.S. mayors delegation.
In Beijing the mayors met with high ranking officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Trade & Economic Cooperation to receive briefings on international issues and the current status of the Chinese economy, which is now owned 50 percent by private enterprise. The officials discussed China's need to develop new cities to provide opportunities for a population that is still 70 percent rural. And, they have undertaken aggressive initiatives to develop environmental infrastructure, particularly in the water and wastewater fields as well as high-tech industrial parks.
In their discussions, the mayors learned of Beijing's Blue Sky Project, an aggressive program to combat air pollution with a goal of eliminating smog in the city within five years. Discussions are being held among city officials on limiting motorized traffic in the city. The effort is partially driven by environmental concerns, and also Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
The mayors delegation convened in China officially as part of the Second U.S-Sino Conference on Urban Development and Cooperation, hosted exclusively by the Conference of Mayors and the China Association of Mayors. The first such conference occurred in January of 1999 in Honolulu under the auspices of both organizations and Honolulu Mayor Jeremy Harris. That conference led to further discussions between the two organizations and resulted in a resolution passed at the 68th Annual Conference of Mayors in Seattle authorizing the memorandum of coopertion that was signed in China.
The conference's formal sessions were held in the cities of Xian and Suzhou and focused principally on environmental infrastructure and technology development. At the request of the China Association, the U.S. delegation included private sector firms who have entered into public/private partnerships with American cities in the water and wastewater fields.
Xi'an and Suzhou
The Second Sino-US Conference on Urban Development and Cooperation was held in two cities. The first official seminar took place in Xi'an, the ancient western Chinese capital with over 3,000 years of history. The second was held in Suzhou, an important historical and cultural city with over 2,500 years of history. The current municipal governments of these ancient cities are in the midst of major modernization programs, and they have reached out to mayors from around the world, including the Unites States, to seek guidance The two central themes introduced by the Chinese mayors at the conferences were how to manage the population explosion, and development strategies for western China's provinces. .
Mr. Feng Xuchu, Mayor of Xi'an spoke of the enormous task before the Chinese people in modernizing their cities now that China has opened its doors to the West. He stated, "The ultimate goal of urban development and cooperation is to improve our residents' living and working condition, upgrade people's life quality and further cities' modernization." Mayor Feng wanted to hear from the U.S. mayors how they managed to grow their economy and develop their cities to become the leading world power in such a comparatively short time period.
Xi'an is a city of 6.7 million people, with about 2 million living in the city proper. Like most of the 280 million Chinese living in the 10 western Provinces and regions, the people of Xi'an live on modest incomes of $2,000 (US) or less annually. Compared to the rest of China, the GDP for Xi'an residents is about 60% of the national income, and only 40% of the eastern China income. Both the national government and the city government have developed plans to attract industry, exploit tourism, and protect agricultural production. To accomplish these modernization goals local government has to find ways to finance infrastructure investments to provide the energy, water, transportation, tele-communication networks and waste management services. Mayor McManus said that mayors deal with essentially the same issues, no matter what country they are from.
The delegation held another conference in Suzhou, south of Beijing, and just north of Shanghai. Mayor Chen Demming stated that there are 1 million people living in the city proper, and 5.7 million living in the metropolitan region. The city maintains a double chessboard pattern of parallel canals and streets to retain its original charm. While the Mayor's program includes preservation of the cultural character of the city, it also is aggressively pursuing industrial development.
Both Xi'an and Suzhou have adopted preferential industrial development policies. These cities have developed planned high-tech industrial parks that combine industrial, residential, educational and open space land uses. The industrial park zones are anchored by foreign company investors who find tax and labor costs very advantageous. The municipal government, however, still has to provide the infrastructure necessary to support the new industry. Mayors Feng of Xi'an and Chen of Suzhou said they are seeking both foreign investment and western technology expertise to provide the necessary infrastructure.
Mayor McManus discussed how the City of Lynn developed a major water infrastructure project that will save the city as much as several hundred million dollars. He advised the Chinese Mayors to be open to different alternatives, and not be complacent about past practices. He also stated that much of the high cost of infrastructure results from incorrectly over-valuing a project. When Lynn put out a bid with very specific goals delineated, the private sector proposed different project structures for the city to choose from. The competitive bid process, a way to out-source the construction and operation of the infrastructure asset, resulted in huge cost savings. Mayor McManus also stressed the need to write a service agreement with a private partner so that the water consumer is protected from unnecessary rate increases or disruptions in service.
Mayor Hays presented North Little Rock's development and financing of a major sports arena; Mayor Garner discussed Hempstead's comprehensive infrastructure development plan; and Mayor Eriquez detailed how his city had saved significant resources by entering into a twenty year management contract with a private sector wastewater management firm.
Joining the U.S. Mayors were three international water companies who are members of the Urban Water Council's Water Development Advisory Board (WDAB). David Chardavoyne, President of Thames Water North America, was joined by Ian Richie in presenting case studies of very large water and wastewater development projects. Mr. Chardavoyne explained how Thames partners with municipal government to design, build and operate water infrastructure in a cost-effective way. The list of projects (including some already in China) caused much interest among the dozen or more Chinese mayors attending the seminars.
Gary Miller, Executive Vice President of Operations Management International, also a WDAB member, joined the delegation. He presented information to the Chinese mayors and their staff on what the necessary ingredients are to structure a successful water infrastructure project. He added that the Chinese officials should take care to understand the differences between their country and the U.S. when considering infrastructure partnerships. For example, while productivity improvements have occurred in the U.S. by substituting technology for labor, the same may not be appropriate for China where labor costs are quite different.
The third WDAB member company, US Filter, was represented by James Nelson, Vice President for Public Affairs. Mr. Nelson presented information on the dramatic growth of water infrastructure partnerships in the U.S. He discussed issues of technology improvement, productivity increases, and the capabilities of US Filter and its parent company Vivendi, which already has a presence in China.
The delegation also held briefings with high-ranking municipal officials in Beijing and Shanghai. While Beijing has the advantage of being the capital city, Shanghai has been the center of huge progress in modernization. Shanghai, with 13 million people, has one percent of China's population, five percent of the GDP, and 20 percent of the nation's income. Like Beijing, however, Shanghai is still looking westward for help with transportation, air quality and water supply.
According to the provisions in the Memorandum of Cooperation, the two Associations will continue to hold seminars in the coming years. One goal is to conduct information exchanges on different sections of the economy. The China Association plans to send a delegation to the U.S. in October of this year.