A delegation from the northern Chinese city of Harbin have been special guests in Sunderland (Thursday 31 May).

The group included senior government figures from the city, which has a population of more than ten million.

The visit is part of the on-going Friendship Agreement that was first signed with Sunderland in 2009 and renewed in 2014.

There are ten schools in Sunderland who have partnerships with Harbin schools and there is an active exchange and visits programme.

The delegation of six met Deputy Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Michael Mordey, representatives from the University of Sunderland, Together for Children, Sunderland Software City and the North East Automotive Alliance.

At the Sunderland Software Centre, the delegation received presentations and updates on the city’s economy, the Northern Spire, and also met representatives from local software companies before a tour of Washington Old Hall and returning to London.

Cllr Mordey said: “Education and economic links have been at the heart of the partnership between our two cities since we first signed the Friendship Agreement, so it is really positive to have partners from these key areas when we met the delegation.

“We are very proud of our relationship with Harbin, and delighted that senior representatives from six four schools had the opportunity to travel to Harbin in March this year.

“I know that the schools are now looking at plans for return visits, bringing together both staff and students, to continue to strengthen their school to school partnerships.”

The delegation members were: Mr Wang Zhaoli Party Secretary of Harbin CPC Committee, Mr Teng Youping Director of Harbin Industry and Information Commission, Mr Gao Huimin Director of Harbin Foreign Affairs Office, Mr Liu Xingge Secretary of Harbin Pingfang Economic Developing Zone, Mr Gao Yueming Chief of Secretariat of Harbin Foreign Affairs Office and Mr Meng Fanyu Interpreter of Harbin Foreign Affairs Office.

Signed in May 2009 Sunderland’s Friendship Agreement with Harbin is one of four international partnerships that Sunderland has – the others being Essen in Germany, Saint-Nazaire in France (both longstanding since 1949 and 1953 respectively) and Washington DC (since 2006).

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