Shanghai, home to the Shanghai International Film Festival, and Milan have been sister cities since the 1970s. And that connection became even closer after Milan was selected to succeed Shanghai as the World Expo host.
It was not easy for Hu Junyao to become a volunteer at the China Pavilion at the Milan Expo. She is one of the 36 volunteers selected from more than 1,000 candidates in China, and has been serving as a guide in the pavilion for more than a month.
“When we came here, we told ourselves that we represent China, Shanghai and China’s young people at this Expo. We want to show the world how energetic and positive the young people are in Shanghai,” Hu said.
While Hu is assisting visitors at the pavilion, Director Zhao Lei and her team of more than 100 performers presented 13 cultural performances for China’s National Day and the Shanghai Week at the Milan Expo. For the past week, Zhao has walked nearly 20 kilometers in the park everyday and slept for only a few hours at night, to ensure the best shows for the Milan audience.
“From the 2010 Shanghai Expo, through Yeosu Expo in South Korea and to the Milan Expo. I felt I have a special connection with the Expo. Back then in Shanghai, I felt like I was doing the work in my home and wanted the whole world to see the best of Shanghai. Now in Italy, the city of fashion, I want to bring the fashion of Shanghai to Milan and its people,” Zhao said.
Shanghai and Milan became sister cities in 1979. But the connection has been made closer through the Expo. Thanks to the Expo’s Shanghai week, Shanghai companies including Bright Food and Shanghai Tex have signed agreements with Italian counterparts. And more is on the way.
“We are building a platform for cultural cooperation, with cultural and media firms in Italy, such as art foundations and museums in Florence. So we can introduce more cultural resources to China and to the Bund,” said Wu Yang, president, the Bund Finance Centre.
Authorities from both cities are working to further improve the ties. This week, Jing’an District of Shanghai and Zone One in Milan signed a memorandum for friendly cooperation, aimed at building the connection between Nanjing Road and Monte Naplolenoe Street.
“So we have signed cooperation between two main zone involved in shopping, fashion, design in the city of Milan and in the city of Shanghai. It could be a good opportunity for companies and businesses to exchange project activity,” said Cristina Tajani, Milan vice mayor.
Shanghai authorities say they will continue to promote economic cooperation between the two cities, especially in urban agriculture and the fashion industry. Last year, trade between Shanghai and Italy hit $8.5 billion, a 5 percent increase from 2013. Italy has made direct investments in 941 projects in Shanghai, with a total value of $1.1 billion.