Chinese collaboration in sustainable urban development 

Words of praise fly through the air as the third joint workshop arranged under the auspices of the Centre for Sustainable Urban Development opens. This collaboration between Linköping University and Guangzhou University has been in place for a year now and is progressing well, even if communication is challenging.

Helen Dannetun opens the third official workshop Helen Dannetun opens the third official workshop Photo credit: Monica WestmanThe third joint workshop in sustainable urban development is opened several times: by the two vice-chancellors, by the leaders of Guangzhou City, by the mayor of Linköping, and - not least - by Science Counsellor at the Swedish Embassy, Christer Ljungewall. Outside the door a Chinese TV team is waiting to interview LiU's vice-chancellor, Helen Dannetun.

"Guangzhou wants to be a leader in sustainable urban development in China. We are working hard for clean air and water, and will not stop for anything until we reach the goal. We want to be a pilot as a smart city in China, and need to develop several other collaborations, one of them with Linköping University," said Zhang Jianhua, general secretary of Guangzhou city, at the workshop opening.

"We are confident that we can reach our objective and make Linköping fossil-free by the year 2025," replied Helena Balthammar, mayor of Linköping.

Helen Dannetun being interviewed by Chinese TVHelen Dannetun being interviewed by Chinese TV. Photo credit: Monica Westman"There is a huge difference between the cities: Linköping with 150,000 inhabitants and Guangzhou with 15 million, but there are similarities, and we see that a more sustainable lifestyle is possible. We can help each other to contribute to the development of new technology and new opportunities. And our differences are a major source of strength," said LiU vice-chancellor Helen Dannetun.

Great interest

Christer Ljungewall added:
"We are seeing enormous development in China, an improved standard of living for most people, and large investment in research. China's success in science has also been amazing, and today China is at the forefront of many sectors. Within science, research and innovation, however, Sweden is one of the leading countries in the world. This is why it is marvellous that Sweden and China are collaborating: there is much to learn by doing things together. On behalf of the embassy and the Swedish government, I wish you all the best," he said.

The joint research centre has aroused great interest in the Guangdong region, and words of praise fly across the hall in all directions, while the interpreters skilfully manage the two languages, Chinese and English.

The hall contains not only Chinese and Swedish researchers working together within the centre, but also many students from Guangzhou University.

Collaboration takes time

Stefan Anderberg, professor in industrial ecology at LiU, gets the workshop itself going by describing the framework in which the centre acts, and expectations for its achievements. He points out, however, that it takes time to build collaboration.
Ulf Nilsson and Stefan Anderberg share a joke as the delegates arrive.Ulf Nilsson and Stefan Anderberg share a joke as the delegates arrive. Photo credit: Monica Westman
"Some misunderstanding did take place during the first year, but we have gained valuable experience and laid a firm foundation for the future," he says.

The workshop continued with a comparison of results from the year-long pilot project within urban mining (in which the waste that the city produces is seen as a source of resources), biogas and urban development.

The first two topics are slightly more technical and involve systems science. Here, the researchers have reassessed the direction of the project to a certain degree and managed to plan the way forwards together. They have also produced the basis for co-authored scientific articles.

"New people have come in to lead the work with biogas. We have, however, received a positive response to our plans for how to continue working together. We have also made considerable progress within urban mining. The research group at the centre in Guangzhou has been reinforced by recruiting Professor Chang, together with a researcher who recently defended a doctoral thesis at Chalmers University of Technology, whom several of us have met before," says Stefan Anderberg.

Challenging communication

Kristna Trygg and Ann-Sofi Kall, Department of Thematic Studies - Technology and Social ChangeKristna Trygg and Ann-Sofi Kall, Department of Thematic Studies - Technology and Social Change Photo credit: Monica WestmanThe third project is purely in the field of social sciences. It deals with how the senior political leaders in Guangzhou view sustainability and how sustainability aspects are included in city planning. This project has experienced greater difficulties.

"Our collaboration partners don't have any experience of the type of interview that we normally use. It's also been difficult to make it clear how we analyse the responses. One consequence of this is that we have not received sufficiently accurate transcriptions of the interviews carried out in Chinese," says Kristina Trygg, researcher at the Department of Thematic Studies - Technology and Social Change.

While the workshop is under way in the hall, the university managements are meeting in a neighbouring room to discuss the future of the joint Centre for Sustainable Urban Development. What is clear, however, is that the research will have to pause,
pending a formal decision.

Financing for a longer period is needed

Xiao Tangfu, dean of the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Guangzhou University and director of the research centre is, however, working to ensure that it continues.

Xiao Tangfu, Dean of the School of Environmental Engineering and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Urban DevelopmentXiao Tangfu, Dean of the School of Environmental Engineering and Director of the Centre for Sustainable Urban Development Photo credit: Monica Westman"We must start publishing articles together and we must get to grips with the truly major environmental challenges in our city, such as the water supply. In this way we can influence policy. But this also needs financing for a longer period and better guarantees for continued collaboration," he says.

One possibility that he sees is to apply for funds together from large international research programmes, and Guo Xingpeng, chairman of the board at Guangzhou University, agrees.

"So far, the research has used financing from the city of Guangzhou, but we need to extend the collaboration internationally, apply for joint funding, and draw up plans three years and five years that reinforce the collaboration," he says.

Postgraduate education is also planned within the framework of the centre. Ulf Nilsson, dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering at LiU agreed to act as Swedish contact, until someone more appropriate can be brought in.

Teacher education

Ding Bangyou, dean of the School for Teacher Education, Continuous and Advanced Education, is delighted by the collaboration.

Qu Shaobing, Chairman of the Guangzhou University BoardQu Shaobing, Chairman of the Guangzhou University Board, Guo Xingpeng, Vice President of Guangzhou University, Ding Bangyou, Dean of the School of Continuing and Advanced Education, Luo Jiaowan, Director of the Office for Scientific Research.  Photo credit: Monica Westman"You held a course for 65 teachers in sustainable learning here, and we were very happy with it. We like  the style, contents, outdoor teaching, learning both indoors and outdoors, and would like to see that this continues in 2018, maybe also in other regions."

"I'm happy to hear about the continuing education for teachers: outdoor learning is also important for our teacher education. I'm sure that joint publications will be produced from the eventually, but work towards a doctoral degree takes time," Helen Dannetun said. She is also hoping that the collaboration can be extended to other regions in which society is facing challenges.

After all the wonderful words, it's time for the Swedish delegation to travel on to Guangzhou Library and the opening of an exhibition celebrating the 20-year collaboration between Linköping and Guangzhou. The day ends with the signing of three agreements: between the cities, between the universities and between the city libraries.

The participants of the third workshopParticipants at the inauguration of the third workshop at the Center on Urban Sustainable Development Photo credit: Guangzhou University


The collaboration agreement between the vice-chancellors of Linköping University and Guangzhou University is signed.

The collaboration agreement between the vice-chancellors of Linköping University and Guangzhou University is signed. Monica Westman

Two collaboration agreements signed, from the left Helen Dannetun, Vice-Chancellor of LiU, Helena Balthammar, Mayor of Linköping, Wen Guohui, Mayor of Gungzhou, and Wei Minghai, Vice-Chancellor of Guangzhou University.

Two collaboration agreements signed, from the left Helen Dannetun, Vice-Chancellor of LiU, Helena Balthammar, Mayor of Linköping, Wen Guohui, Mayor of Gungzhou, and Wei Minghai, President of Guangzhou University. Monica Westman

The municipal libraries in Guangzhou and Linköping will also continue to collaborate. An exhibition is opened to celebrate the 20-year collaboration between the twinned cities, with pictures, texts and drawings by schoolchildren in the two cities.

The municipal libraries in Guangzhou and Linköping will also continue to collaborate. An exhibition is opened to celebrate the 20-year collaboration between the twinned cities, with pictures, texts and drawings by schoolchildren in the two cities. Monica Westman

Christer Ljungewall from the Swedish embassy in Beijing gives a speech at the opening ceremony

Christer Ljungewall from the Swedish embassy in Beijing gives a speech at the opening ceremony. Danny Ying Xu of the Gungazhou Office for Foreign Affairs interprets. Monica Westman

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