EAST met West on Wearside with the arrival of a high-powered Chinese delegation.
Four presidents of Chinese software companies, alongside senior government officials and headteachers, visited Sunderland as part of a high-level delegation from Harbin. Sunderland City Council signed a Friendship Agreement with China’s 10th largest city in 2009.
The visit was organised by the council and brought together business leaders, particularly in the city’s thriving software technology sector.
The 12-strong delegation was led by Cao Ru, deputy director of Harbin Foreign Affairs Office, and Zhi Dayong, director of Harbin Industry and Information Commission.
The group met some of the city’s leading software companies and visited the University of Sunderland to share experience on cloud computing and green technology during their three days in Sunderland.
They also toured the city, visiting the Stadium of Light and spending time in some of the city’s schools.
Coun Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “China is a huge market and the Chinese businesspeople on this mission have travelled thousands of miles to explore business opportunities in Sunderland and link up with our thriving software sector.
“We are as enthusiastic as our guests about the potential for trading between our cities, and will do all we can to nurture commercial and educational links between our cities.
“The quality of our software sector means that many Sunderland-based companies are already trading globally with great success.”
The delegation met representatives from Sunderland Software City and the city council at the Evolve centre. There are plans for a trade mission from Sunderland to Harbin for the city’s software sector in 2012.
Mr Cao Ru said: “It is good news for both cities that we are co-operating so well and productively together. We have forged strong links between Sunderland and Harbin in our business and education communities. This will be a valuable and positive visit to our partner city.”
Nine schools in Sunderland have been working with schools in Harbin as part of the friendship agreement and another joined this visit.
Next year seven Sunderland schools will send pupils and teachers to Harbin to experience Chinese education at first hand.