MWAZIPEZA CHANDA, Hangzhou ,China
CHINAâ€™S countdown to the hosting of the Group of Twenty (G20) economic summit commenced with a backdrop of Hangzhouâ€™s scenic beauty while boasting the latest in innovation and city planning.
With a light drizzle falling and the early morning mist clinging to the hills and high rise buildings, thousands of volunteer workers gathered in a stadium, which once hosted Olympic events, to mark the 100 day countdown to the September 4 event.
Ever since President Xi Jinping announced the venue of the 2016 meeting, provincial and city leaders have been working towards ensuring summit delegates get to experience the best of China.
â€œHangzhou is not only a renowned city of history and culture, but also a leader in innovation. I trust that the 2016 Summit will present to us a unique setting where history meets modernity,â€ President Xi said.
Amidst the continued global economic slowdown and the rising migrant crisis, Turkey hosted the 2015 G20 Summit in the coastal town of Antalya and it was there on November 16 that the Chinese leader announced the next summitâ€™s host city.
â€œThere is a Chinese saying: â€˜Up in heaven, there is paradise; down on earth, there are Suzhou and Hangzhou.â€™ It means that the cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou have beautiful sceneries that make them comparable to paradise on earth,â€ he said.
Zhao Yide, secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Hangzhou Municipal Committee told journalists at a press briefing said detailed planning and co-ordination between the party leadership, provincial administration and relevant ministries would realise a milestone event.
â€œHosting the G20 summit can mean opening a window to the outside world – to showcase the achievements made under Chinese reforms and modernisation campaigns.â€
Hangzhou, a centuries-old city with a population of nearly 8.9 million, is the capital and largest city of Zhejiang Province.
Locally, Hangzhou is renowned for its scenic beauty and tourist sites such as the Qiandao Lake, Longjin Tea House, Leifeng Pagoda, the West Lake and the Linying Temple with its impressive rock sculptures are amongst several rich cultural sites surrounded by glorious gardens and lush foliage.
However, internationally, the city has made a name for itself with global giants such as Alibaba.com and Hikvision and more recently as the host of the 2015 Computing Conference.
The innovative feats scored by the province have made it prosperous and ambitious â€“ the gross domestic product per capita stands at US$18,025 and innovation continues to remain a key component in spurring economic growth.
China has been ambitious in improving its image regarding environmental pollution and this is a major component of the works being undertaken across the city.
â€œWe hope that by upgrading the cityâ€™s infrastructure, we can provide a clean and efficient environment for the summit. This will not only improve the city image, but also benefit the lives of locals,â€ Mr Zhao said.
Office workers, tourists and shoppers intermingle with construction workers in hard hats who are very ably working on road works, erections of signs, renovations to buildings and laying out multiple-service pipes.
In a true exercise of Chinese proficiency; construction work is a 24 hour endeavor and the G20 provincial work committee is confident of completion ahead of schedule.
In a recent press conference, Zhang Hongming, the mayor of the host city, said they were aiming to complete almost all of the 650 works by June.
â€œSince last year, we have stepped up construction in infrastructure, including multiple subway lines and expressways. Great efforts were made to improve the environment in key areas,â€ he said.
â€œSpecifically, we are going ahead with a broad network of highways and expressways between the city and its surrounding counties, which is already in shape. By the end of June, we will be giving the city an overall face-lift.â€
In the pursuit of the realisation of an inclusive, eco-friendly and â€˜smartâ€™ city – members of the public were asked to provide ideas through an internet based platform to guide city planners.
The theme of the 2016 G20 Summit is: â€˜Towards an Innovative, Invigorated, Interconnected and Inclusive World Economyâ€™ and information and communication technology (ICT) is sitting high on the preparation works.
There are electric powered public buses that are distinctly coloured in sky blue offering passengers power points to charge mobile phones and laptops, 4G and Wifi service to ensure constant connection to the internet.
The city currently also has 9,851 electric cars available to rent for self-drive and a universal car rental platform with a pool of 2,000 trained and tested drivers.
The city officials have also put in place shuttle services with routes running between the airport, railway stations. The idea is to ensure the city meets international standards not just regarding transport but also in the hospitality and service sectors.
Around 6,000 volunteers have been mobilised to meet and support summit delegates expected to number around 10,000. Many volunteers have undertaken basic English language courses to ensure they can provide useful information and assistance, while others have been given emergency response training.
Security during the event is another aspect that has been addressed with regular patrols and an intricate network of surveillance technology.
The cost of hosting the G20 may be shrouded in a mist of diplomacy but the municipal authorities have made an assurance that most projects were already part of the cityâ€™s budget and by hosting the event they are also speeding up their goal of internationalisation and urban rejuvenation.
The G20 is an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from 20 major economies. It was founded in 1999 with the aim of studying, reviewing, and promoting high-level discussion of policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability.
The members include 19 individual countries – Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States -along with the European Union (EU). The EU is represented by the European Commission and by the European Central Bank. Collectively, the G-20 economies account for around 85percent of the gross world product (GWP), 80 percent of world trade (or, if excluding EU intra-trade, 75 percent), and two-thirds of the world population.
Initiated by China, the G20 summit has for the first time highlighted development as a means to address global political and economic challenges.
The United Nations last year endorsed the new 15-year sustainable development agenda as a follow up to the 2015 Millenium Development Goals, a blueprint for eradicating poverty across the world.
At a press briefing, Chinaâ€™s Foreign Minster Wang Yi, said the G20 summit was an opportunity to ensure action plans around Agenda 2030 took into consideration funding towards underdeveloped nations.
China maybe the worldâ€™s second leading economy but it is also still classified as a developing nation and so is committed to finding practical solutions to lift countries out of poverty.
Huangzhou is a city that has managed to embrace several aspects of society in terms of commerce, politics and religion. It has succesfully blended the old with the new – many imperial gardens and old towns remain standing alongside ambitious high rise buildings and it stands ready to welcome the world.
MWAZIPEZA CHANDA, Hangzhou ,China