The view from abroad
Published: Jan 01, 2014 07:03 PM Updated: Jan 01, 2014 08:51 PM

Different countries have had a close-up and personal view of Shanghai over the past year and today the Global Times shares the insights of nine prominent consuls general based in the city. They talk about their thoughts and views of the past year and for the future.

When they looked back on 2013, almost all mentioned the establishment of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone (FTZ) in September, which provoked much interest from countries and companies around the world. The Turkish Consul General, Deniz Eke, said, "The newly established FTZ will further strengthen Shanghai's regional and global role as an engine of growth, opening up and innovation."

Rolando Garcia Alonso, Mexico's Consul General in Shanghai, said, "My government and Mexican businesses are quite interested in this initiative; in fact, most of the inquiries recently received were in this regard."

Naveen Srivastava, India's Consul General, agrees. "We are watching the developments on that front to see how this could further boost the economic and commercial ties between India and Shanghai in particular." 

International status

In 2013, the city's calendar featured a stack of cultural events that reflected its international status. Of the events celebrating Shanghai's cultural vitality, the Consul General of Ireland, Austin Gormley, was particularly delighted with the celebrations of St Patrick's Day, Ireland's National Day, on March 17, when Shanghai joined other global cities around the world in celebrating Irish music, dance, arts and the national sports of Gaelic football and hurling.

The most important event for Belgium, according to Cathy Buggenhout, Belgium's Consul General, was "the taking of the throne of His Majesty King Philippe on Belgium's National Day on 21 July - a true celebration party was organized for our big Belgian community here (over 1,300 people) in Shanghai."

The year 2013 also marked Turkish Culture Year in China. Throughout the year, Turkey organized a series of cultural events in Shanghai.

For the US Consul General Robert Griffiths, the visit of the Philadelphia Orchestra to Shanghai in the end of May was unforgettable. "That's particularly significant because it's the 40th anniversary of when they came the first time. It's really one of the most significant cultural events to happen since we established relations with China."

Diplomatic moments

There were important diplomatic moments in 2013 too. French President François Hollande visited Shanghai in April 2013. "It was a clear recognition of the dynamism of the relations between France and the city of Shanghai, which hosts the largest French community in Asia," Emmanuel Lenain, the French Consul General, said. Visits from Chinese dignitaries also underscored the importance of the relationship between Shanghai and foreign countries, such as Chinese Premier Li Keqiang's visits to India in May and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to China in October, along with mutual state visits by China and Romania's top leaders.

Shanghai's quick and professional installation of a comprehensive natural gas pipeline network through the city impressed Consul General Griffiths. "In my neighborhood, streets were dug up overnight and within two or three days the lines were in and connected. The ability to do that showed Shanghai is a world-class city," he said. The construction of metro Line 11 also impressed many consuls general.

However, as the Turkish Consul General Eke put it, "The achievements in Shanghai didn't come with a zero cost." The severe pollution which occurred at the second half of 2013 was a bad memory. A greener Shanghai was on top of the wish list for almost everyone. Ong Siew Gay, Singapore's Consul General in Shanghai, said, "Given the recent problems of smog in Shanghai, I think everyone in Shanghai will agree with me that we hope to enjoy clean and fresh air in 2014!"

Anniversaries ahead

So what can we expect in 2014? 2014 will definitely be another busy year for the consuls general, whose schedules are packed with events to boost economic, commercial, cultural and academic ties with Shanghai.

Diplomatically, 2014 will mark the 15th anniversary of the sister-city relationship between Shanghai and the Mexican state of Jalisco, the home of Guadalajara. It will also see the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Suzhou Industrial Park, which is the first government-to-government flagship cooperation project between Singapore and China. This year will also see the 30th anniversary celebration of the sister-city relationship for Antwerp in Belgium and Shanghai in October.

Deniz Eke, the Consul General of Turkey

In 2014, I hope to see for Shanghai less pollution, better regulated traffic, and safer food standards. When these challenges are addressed effectively, I am sure Shanghai will make its mark both within and out of China.

Ong Siew Gay, the Consul General of Singapore

The establishment of the China (Shanghai) Pilot Free Trade Zone is a clear example of reform, and its success would have a strong demonstrative effect on the rest of China.

Emmanuel Lenain, the Consul General of France

The visit by French President François Hollande in April 2013 was a clear recognition of the dynamism of the relations between France and the city of Shanghai which hosts the largest French community in Asia.


Robert Griffiths, the US Consul General

AmCham established a new SME center in 2013, which is significant because it provides opportunities and makes it easier for SMEs in the US to do business in China. In 2014, American companies are very interested in the FTZ.

Cathy Buggenhout, the Consul General of Belgium

It is a wonderful, unforgettable experience to live in Shanghai, which is so forward-looking.  With the FTZ, another milestone is set right here to continue this economic growth path in a sustainable and environmentally sound way. 


Rolando Garcia Alonso, the Consul General of Mexico

I wish important universities could give students the opportunity to learn Spanish. Likewise, I would like to see a center for Mexican or Latin American Studies in the city. I would love to see more of the great Mexican novels translated into Chinese.


Naveen Srivastava, the Consul General of India

Since my arrival in Shanghai in 2012, I have been continuously impressed by the rapid developments, like the expansion of public transportation, new subway lines, infrastructure, etc., which have all made our lives very comfortable.

Austin Gormley, the Consul General of Ireland 

I hope Shanghai's residents continue to enjoy the benefits of increasing prosperity and opportunities in 2014. The city has achieved remarkable success from investing in physical infrastructure and also in social capital.

Florin Marius Tacu, the Consul General of Romania 

Thinking about impressive events that have the potential to shape the future of China. I dare say that the launching of the FTZ was the most prominent event last year. I am confident that this pilot project will bear its intended fruits!