Pan Xiaoma (Jaume Paris Lopez), 64, the chief representative of Hunan Representative Office of Spanish Granada Association of Industry, Commerce and Navigation, has always been active at the forefront of business exchanges between Spanish and China. Having lived in Changsha for 9 years, Pan always says to his friends when he returns home: “The development speed of Changsha, a city in central China, almost surpasses the imagination of all Westerners. These years witnessed the construction of many metro lines and new, beautiful buildings, which is really amazing.”
Considers himself as a half Changsha native, Pan is willing to share the new development and changes with his relatives, friends and business partners, “China is developing really well now. You must go there and have a look in person if you don’t know much about it.”
With the rapid development of economy and society, Changsha’s openness and attraction have improved. More and more foreign friends choose to invest, study, live and work in Changsha.
A survey participated by over 72,000 foreigners shows that Changsha is one of the eight most attractive Chinese cities to foreigners and the only city in central China on the list. Foreign friends fall in love and integrate into Changsha after meeting, getting along with and understanding the city. They also attach labels such as profound culture, openness, inclusiveness and innovation to Changsha.
The world understands Changsha through its diverse culture
With Dongting Lake lying in the north, Hengshan Mountain in the south, and Xiangjiang River passing through the whole city, Changsha has experienced 3000 years of history but its name and site remain unchanged. Being known as “the Hometown of Quyuan and Jiayi” and “the Famous City in Chu and Han Dynasty” since ancient times, Changsha is reputed the most charming city in the world where mountains and rivers meet, and its profound culture is delivering unique charm.
Sajjad AlQazzaz, an Iraqi student of Hunan University of Chinese Medicine, is a firm “supporter” of Hunan Culture. He loves reading Chinese poems and savoring tea. Now he is an Internet celebrity with 240,000 followers and often introduces Changsha culture by shooting short videos and making live broadcasts. On weekends, he would visit some cultural scenic spots such as Yuelu Academy, Changsha Jiandu Museum and Hunan Museum, and experience folk customs in the streets and alleys of Changsha.
“Changsha has profound cultural heritage. Many of its traditional streets and lanes are well-preserved. It is a city where history dances with modern culture.” Sajjad said. The culture of Changsha is deeply embedded in its development process, thus giving everyone a sense of happiness to live in the city.
Changsha Yuhua Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum is the first museum in China with the largest number of intangible heritage projects and the most concentrated intangible cultural heritage inheritors. It is home to 344 intangible cultural heritage projects at all levels, over 1,000 kinds of crafts and over 200 intangible cultural heritage inheritors. James, an Australian living in Changsha for 2 years, comes here to learn Tantou New Year paintings and paper-cutting every month. Every time he goes there, he would take short teaching videos and upload them onto the Internet.
“This time-honored city has opened a window for me to know more about Chinese culture. Culture injects vitality to Changsha and makes it younger, changing my traditional impression of Chinese cities completely.” James, now a vlogger said. He also plans to make documentaries to introduce Changsha culture to foreigners and build a bridge for communication.
Six years ago, Siamul, a Bangladeshi, came to Changsha and became an investment manager of Hunan-Africa Business Cooperation Center after graduating from Hunan University in business administration. Yi speaks fluent Chinese and calls himself “Laokouzi” (means someone is experienced in certain fields in Changsha dialect). He never uses navigation apps when going around in the city and he has been to many places like Meixi Lake International Culture Art Center, Changsha Intangible Cultural Heritage Museum and Li Zijian Art Museum.
“In recent years, there have been many emerging cultural formats in Changsha, but the inheritance of traditional culture has not changed. Those are of great interest to foreigners, helping us to know the inheritance of Chinese culture from generation to generation.” Siamul notices that more and more art institutions and venues have settled in Changsha, adding more artistic charm to this city.
With the promotion of cultural benefiting projects and the development of cultural industry, Changsha has been a national civilized city for three consecutive years, and has been listed as “the happiest cities in China” for twelve consecutive years. It has been awarded many titles as the national public culture standardization demonstration area, the first national demonstration base for cultural and technological integration, the national cultural consumption pilot city and the first national cultural export base. Changsha also has several name cards such as the capital of East Asia culture, the future cultural city and the “City of Media Arts”.
Changsha will further expand its cultural industry, accelerate the construction of cultural industrial park and media arts town, build global media arts creativity and industrial incubation bases, making cultural drive a new engine for the sustainable development of Changsha.
Release business opportunities through opening up
Pakistani Haseebhas registered an international trade company at Hunan-Africa Business Cooperation Center and often flies around the world to run business. “Living in Changsha for one and a half years, I think the traffic here is well-developed. There are many international direct flights, so it is very convenient for suppliers to come here.”
In his spare time, as a Muslim, Haseeb always goes to church. “There are many churches for worship in Changsha. Many foreigners can find food of their own native country here without worrying about different customs and eating habits. These facts show that Changsha is very open.” According to Haseeb, high-speed trains, expressways and international airport make Changsha become a transportation and logistics center. Compared with other relatively developed cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Changsha has favorable conditions for attracting foreign investment, such as low cost, low price, good living environment and nice residents. Therefore, a foreigner can find more job opportunities and investment development potential here, and enjoy more advantages in import and export trade.
Now, Haseeb has found a sense of belonging and decides to stay in Changsha for a long time to start his own business. He plans to utilize his own contacts to help Parkistani businessmen find project investors in China through Hunan-Africa Business Cooperation Center, thus promoting economic and trade exchanges and cooperation of the two countries, sharing development opportunities, and achieving mutual benefit and win-win results.
In recent years, the inland city Changsha is constructing an open channel by basing on a there-dimensional transportation system integrating high-speed train, aviation, water transportation, rail transit and expressways, thus pushing its open economy into a rapid developing phase. Statistics show that in 2018, the total export and import volume of Changsha reached 128.33 billion yuan, breaking the 100-billion-yuan threshold for the first time; the number of international flights at Changsha Huanghua International Airport reached 45.
An open Changsha has friends all over the world. According to the latest statistics, Changsha has formed sister-cities or cooperative relations with 52 cities in 31 countries across 5 continents. By the end of 2018, there were 85 overseas Fortune 500 enterprises investing, setting branches and representative offices in Changsha.
South Korean Li Zhongtai is an honorary citizen of Changsha. He has worked in Changsha for 16 years and witnessed its development and changes. In the past, it took her almost one day to return to South Korea because she had to transfer in Hong Kong. Now, it only takes her two and a half hours to fly directly from Huanghua Airport to Seoul, which is as convenient as traveling from Seoul to Busan in South Korea.
Li Zhongtai told the reporter that in the past, she had to bring chili sauce and kimchi from her hometown when she came to Changsha, otherwise she could barely eat the food there. Now, one can buy authentic Korean food by just going to any Korean restaurant and import food shelves in the supermarket in Changsha.
Li Zhongtai said: “You can taste all kinds of delicious international food here. It is an open and inclusive international city.” Changsha has become his second hometown and she is happy about its rapid development.
Improve new city image to the outside world through innovation and creativity
After his business survey in the Tongguan Kiln for nearly 2 months, Arab Abd al-Rahman who has been doing business in Changsha for many years, praised its cultural innovation. “Many of the porcelains here have integrated exotic culture like the Arabic culture. For instance, there are foreign ladies and couples in the underglaze painting of characters; and knight, Hu people and dancers in the molded appliqué decorations.”
Tongguan is an ancient town on the east bank of Xiangjiang River. More than a thousand years ago, the world famous Changsha porcelain was fired here with a blaze can be seen along the Xiangjiang River stretching several miles, thus has earned the town name as “Pottery Capital Ranging Ten Li”. Nowadays, porcelain artists and college student Makers inherit this cultural heritage and constantly innovate new product appearances and patterns, creating a large number of porcelain products that meet foreign aesthetic and daily demands.
“They adopt modern design philosophy to develop the design and production of Tongguan Kiln in Tang Dynasty in terms of shape, glaze color, decoration, design and cultural meaning.”Abd al-Rahman plans to bring more Arab porcelain businessmen to Tongguan Kiln next year to learn the innovative philosophy.
Damion Braithwaite, a friendly and outgoing British is a teacher of International Department, Yali High School. Having lived in Changsha for nearly ten years, he married a Chinese woman and has a cute daughter. He is also a “Changsha Maker”. Several years ago, Damion began to explore how to provide information and services for foreigners in Changsha by trying to found a free magazine, and later he registered a WeChat official account called WNIC (What’s New in Changsha), providing information about Changsha cuisines, scenic spots and working opportunities.
This official account already has over 20,000 followers, and often organizes offline activities as well as parties, providing communication platforms and services for foreigners who live in Changsha so that they can integrate into and fall in love with the city. “Many young people in Changsha think forward and are very innovative. I’m really inspired by them.”Damion said. The gathering of innovative talents makes Changsha full of vitality.
Martin Haase is from Victoria, Canada, a sister city of Changsha and he came to Changsha in 2007. He loves traditional Chinese medicine and Tai Chi. Now he is a graduate student of Hunan University of Chinese Medicine. Besides, he is also the thirteenth-generation successor of Chen’s Tai Chi, the executive director of Changsha Tai Chi Association and the international spokesman of Hunan Martial Art Association.
Now, Martin is completely used to living in Changsha. He can eat spicy food and loves drinking local milk tea. He married a Changsha girl and has two cute children. After participating in a series of themed activities called “Happy Changsha • My Home—Changsha in the eyes of foreigners” for several consecutive years, Martin finds that Changsha is filled with innovative and creative ideas.
“Changsha is home to several leading TV media and cultural creative industries in China. Many products designed and developed by local enterprises rank first in the world, making foreigners look at made-in-China with new eyes.” Martin told the reporter that Changsha is not only an industrial city with rapid development of science and innovation, but also a city houses both ancient civilization and modern creativity. (Tang Xiaoqing)