An Exclusive Interview with the Mayor of Zurich Corine Mauch|President Xi Jinping Visits to Switzerland as Opportunity to Enhance Kunming-Zurich 35 Years’ Friendship

The Mayor of Zurich Corine Mauch

(EurAsia Info — Reporter Zhang Dechun) From January 15 to 18, President Xi Jinping paid a state visit to Switzerland, attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum and visited International Organizations in Switzerland.

During the four-day visit to Switzerland, President Xi Jinping carried out dozens of bilateral and multilateral activities in Zurich, Bern, Davos, Lausanne and Geneva, had an extensive contact with leaders of various countries and people from all walks of life, promoted policies and led cooperation, which achieved fruitful results and had a far-reaching impact. As the world is rethinking profoundly on the idea of national and global governance, the development and role of China is constantly attracting the world’s attention.

Thirty-five years ago, Zurich and Kunming formally became sister cities. Since 1982, the two sides have made fruitful cooperation in culture, science and technology, commerce and urban construction, and have become a model of cooperation between the two countries. In October 2012, the city hall of Zurich, Switzerland, organized a week-long exhibition “The 30th Anniversary of the City Relationship between Kunming and Zurich” in the Cultural Museum of the City Center. Zurich Mayor Corine Mauch, Chinese Consul General in Zurich Liang Jianquan and former mayor of Zurich, Thomas Wagner who is also the president of the Swiss-Chinese Association, attended the meeting.

Zurich is a leading financial center and global city. The Greater Zurich Area is Switzerland’s economic center and home to a vast number of international companies. By far the most important sector in the economy of Zurich is the service industry, which employs nearly four-fifths of workers. Most Swiss banks have their headquarters in Zürich and there are numerous foreign banks in the Greater Zurich Area.

Located in Zurich, the Swiss Stock Exchange was established in 1877 and is nowadays the fourth most prominent stock exchange in the world. In addition, Zurich is the world’s largest gold trading center. Ten of the country’s 50 largest companies have their head offices in Zurich. At the same time, Zürich has a rich cultural tradition. Zurich University of the Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich University and other institutions are world-renowned institutions, most of Chinese students in Switzerland study in those institutions.

Corine Mauch-479The Mayor of Zurich Corine Mauch

It is the first state visit to the European country by a Chinese president in the 21st century. And meanwhile, Xi is the first Chinese head of state who has attended the Davos meeting. It is a milestone in Sino-Swiss relations and will give a firm confidence in and inject positive momentum to the development of the relations between China and Europe. “Friendship will never be affected by distance.” President Xi Jinping was invited to the Davos meeting. He was warmly welcomed by people from all walks of life in Switzerland and the Swiss side gave an unprecedented high-level courtesy. The first stop of Xi Jinping’s visit to Switzerland was Zurich.

EurAsia Info had the opportunity to interview the mayor of Zurich, Corine Mauch, on how President Xi’s visit will impact the Zurich-China relations.

Corine Mauch was elected mayor of Zurich in March 2009. She succeeded the popular Elmar Ledergerber, who caused a surprise by stepping down before the end of his term. She is the first female mayor of Zurich. She was the Social Democratic Party of Switzerland (SP) candidate in the election and was successful in a two-round contest. In the second ballot on 29 March 2009 she won comfortably against long-term city councilor Kathrin Martelli from the Free Democratic Party. Corine Mauch is from a political family. Her mother, Ursula Mauch, was chair of the SP Group in the Swiss Federal Parliament from 1987 – 1995.

EurAsia Info: Have you ever been to China before? What is your opinion about China?

Mayor Mauch: Yes, I have been to China several times. As Mayor of the City of Zürich and privately as well. My last visits in our sister city Kunming were in spring 2016 and in autumn 2014. I also visited the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010 where the City of Zürich was present with a pavilion. This year we are organizing an exchange with the City of Hong Kong. Personally, I find China and the Chinese culture very fascinating. I studied Chinese at the University of Zürich and I still speak some Mandarin.

EurAsia Info: As we all know, Zurich and Kunming are Sister Cities. What has Zurich already achieved in the cooperation with China? In which areas do China and Zurich work together?

Mayor Mauch: The city partnership between Kunming and Zürich was originally set up in

1982 as a cultural exchange and culture is still an important part of our partnership. The city’s own Helmhaus Museum just showed a very successful exhibition of contemporary Chinese and Swiss art, featuring among others a collaboration between the Chinese artist Tan Ping and the Swiss artist Luciano Castelli. Since the beginning in the early eighties, our partnership with Kunming gradually developed into a technical collaboration. The topics are public water supply, sewage disposal, public transport management, city planning, preservation of historic buildings and protection of the environment.

EurAsia Info: How will you further develop the friendship and cooperation between China and Zurich as long as you are in service?

Mayor Mauch: First of all we want to continue and to deepen our partnership with Kunming. 2017 will be the 35th anniversary of our long-lasting friendship. An important initiative for the future is the Sino-Swiss Low Carbon Cities Programm. We strive to reduce CO2-emissions and contribute to a greener and more sustainable city development. And we also want to intensify the economic exchange between the City of Zürich and China.

EurAsia Info: Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Zurich when he visits Switzerland, do you think this fact will help China and Zurich to cooperate more deeply? In your opinion, what areas will be the most likely ones to work together?

Mayor Mauch: Through President Xi’s visit, Zurich will conduct cooperation at a higher level with our sister city Kunming. The cultural exchange, the economic exchange and the exchange of ideas in general are the most important issues. The exchange with Kunming is of high value for us. The City of Zürich learns a lot from the City of Kunming. The vitality and the dynamic of Kunming are impressive.

Switzerland and China are different in many ways. It is very interesting and stimulating to learn from each other and to get to a better understanding of each other. China has a lot to offer.

EurAsia Info: What are the barriers for the cooperation between China and Zurich?How is Zurich addressing those?

Mayor Mauch: Two obvious barriers are the distance and the language. But that can be solved if we stay open-minded and curious. Zürich is a cosmopolitan city, the people of Zürich are interested in other cultures. This is a good starting point to learn from each other.

EurAsia Info: China and Swiss are not the only playing an important role in their continents, but also in the world. What are the directions and targets for the cooperation between China and Switzerland?

Mayor Mauch: One of the important things is the willingness to learn from each other and to understand each other better. Everywhere in the world cities have similar challenges to cope with: traffic, housing, protection of the environment, city planning etc. It is very helpful to exchange and share best practices and know how.

EurAsia Info: When President Xi visits Switzerland, he also will participate in the World Economic Forum. In your opinion, what are the highlights for China and Switzerland joining the WEF?

Mayor Mauch: The WEF is mainly a platform for representatives of companies and for representatives of national governments. We as cities often have very practical challenges to cope with. The situation of refugees in Europe is a good example for that: The regulations are defined on a national and international level. But in the end, the refugees arrive in European cities. We have to provide housing and schooling for them and we have to integrate them in our society. It was therefore very helpful and interesting when Pope Francis invited me and 70 other mayors from all over Europe to discuss the situation of refugees in our cities. Being in direct contact is important to find the best possible solutions for our cities and for the people in us cities.

Looking back in history——”Over the past century and more, mankind has gone through bloody hot wars and the chilling Cold War, but also achieved remarkable development and huge progress.” “As modern history shows, to establish a fair and equitable international order is the goal that mankind has always striven for.”

EurAsia Info: Many thanks to Mayor Corine Mauch for having accepted our interview!

Corine Mauch-418

The Mayor of Zurich Corine Mauch

Corine Mauch grew up in Aargau, a region in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, and arrived in Zurich in 1983 to attend university. She graduated from the ETH University in agricultural economics and from the Switzerland Graduate School of Public Administration.   

Looking at the reality – “Mankind is in an era of major development as well as profound transformation and change.” “There is only one Earth in the universe and we mankind have only one homeland.”

Economic globalization is a surging historical trend and peace and development are common aspirations. Conforming to the trend, China dares to bear the mission, promote the vision and respond to people’s expectations.

There has not been any interruption in the partnership between the two cities in the last 35 years. Kunming and Zurich’s city relationship is one of the earliest and most fruitful friendly city relations between China and other countries after China’s reform and opening-up. With the help of the platform, the two cities not only enhanced the mutual understanding and friendship between the people in both places, but also promoted exchanges and cooperation of the two countries in various fields and made contributions to promote China-Swiss relations through a series of specific projects.

Many believe that the visit will further deepen the traditional friendship between the Chinese and Swiss people, expand the new pragmatic cooperation in various fields, enrich the connotation of Sino-Swiss strategic partnership, push Sino-Swiss relations to a higher level and inject positive factors to jointly promote the world economic recovery.

By EurAsia Info Ailian ZHU and Dechun ZHANG

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