November 2015 was a very special month for me. I said goodbye to my many years’ colleagues in a giant global corporation and started my new professional journey as a Head of International Affairs of City of Espoo. Even if I have lived in Espoo already for 14 years I have only seen a small part of Espoo so far. Now it’s time to open the curtain and look at what is behind the scenes.
As an original Shanghainese, I am proud that my present home city Espoo is a sister city to Shanghai. Already during my third week in a new job I had a chance to visit Shanghai. The delegation was led by the Mayor of Espoo, Jukka Mäkelä and followed by Director of Economic and Business Development, Tuula Antola. The main purpose of the visit was to strengthen the close and long-term relationship between the cities. The sister city agreement will be renewed with a new MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) for the next three years in 2016.
This was a first time to me to start a trip with a dragon dance and air hostesses choir performances at the airport. This extra program was arranged to celebrate the first long distance flight of Finnair A350 from Helsinki to Shanghai.
Our three day visit to Shanghai was booked full of program including meetings with Shanghai Mayor Mr. Xiong YANG, Shanghai Pilot Free Trade Zone management, Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office (FAO) colleagues and ZhangJiang Group (ZhangJiang Innovation Park) Ventures and Incubator management. Our program included also the Finnair’s reception, which was a nice get-together of Finnish business representatives based in Shanghai. The Finnish business community in Shanghai is the biggest one outside of Europe.
We also joined the celebration of Finnish Innovation Center FinChi’s 10 years anniversary. Finchi was established in 2005 and is now a key orchestrator of Team Finland operations in China. Finchi offers Finnish companies a great access to local hi-tech companies in a variety of industries. As a city, Espoo wants to encourage both Finnish SMEs to establish their bases in Shanghai, and Chinese companies in Espoo.
In all the meetings Mayor Jukka Mäkelä emphasized the importance of good collaboration in all levels – between countries, cities, universities and companies. Mayor YANG expressed his full support on this approach. He also welcomed SLUSH – a matchmaking event for startups and investors – to Shanghai in 2016. The meeting of two Mayors, which was already a third one, was reported widely in Shanghai media. As an example, my parents who live in Shanghai called me on the next day and told they had seen me on television with two Mayors.
All in all, this was an unforgettable trip for me personally. I promise as both a Shanghainese and a present Espoo resident, that I will do my very best on developing this special relation for the good of people and businesses, in both of my dear home cities.