ICMA expanded its role as a training and technical assistance partner in China by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on November 18 with the China Association for International Exchange of Personnel. The association is the training unit of the Chinese State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs (SAFEA), the key agency to approve training programs and providers for Chinese local governments.
Under the MOU, ICMA can respond to specific requests to recommend experts for assignments to provide technical assistance in city/county management for SAFEA and for Chinese ministries, provinces, and cities. The MOU was formalized by Bob O’Neill, ICMA executive director, and Mr. Nie Biao, director of the Department of Culture, Educational and Health Experts Exchange Affairs of SAFEA.
Also attending the signing ceremony were Mr. Sun Zhaohua, vice president of SAFEA; Mr. Zheng Jie, vice director of the SAFEA Training Center; and Mr. Wang Haiyang, chief representative of the New York SAFEA office. At a meeting preceding the signing, ICMA staff described ICMA’s China-related activities to date and highlighted the organization’s expertise in city/county management, sustainable development, innovative approaches to eco-friendly urbanization, performance management, and local government survey research, among other topics. The Chinese delegation expressed interest in ICMA’s practical approaches to local development, which they felt would be highly beneficial for Chinese cities.
ICMA’s Network in China
The MOU builds on a network that has been expanding step by step since the ICMA China Center was established in 2011 as a partnership between ICMA and the China University of Political Science and Law (CUPL):
- ICMA signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Academy for Mayors in China (NAMC) to enhance the center’s training offerings. NAMC is the lead agency providing regular training opportunities to local government officials in China. The two organizations will jointly organize training, translate and publish ICMA resources for Chinese local government officials, and cooperate on academic conferences and study tours.
- In an earlier step, ICMA was approved as an official SAFEA training partner to provide training and capacity building for Chinese local government officials in China and the United States. The new MOU expands that approval for ICMA to provide technical experts in China for various government agencies at both the national and subnational levels and for state-owned enterprises.
- At the ICMA International Regional Summit in Yangzhou, China, in May 2014, ICMA and the city officially established Yangzhou as a training base for the ICMA China Center.
- Also at the summit, ICMA signed an agreement with CUPL’s Center for Cooperative Innovation for Governance by Law that seeks to further the Chinese government's mission to fund collaboration by leading Chinese universities with other institutions to foster innovation. Contingent on a grant, the partnership will provide opportunities for exchanges by professors, researchers, students, and interns from both countries as well as joint conferences and publications.
Future ICMA China Center Activities
The ICMA China Center is planning several activities for the coming year. Highlights include a keynote address by Mr. O’Neill at the SAFEA Foreign Expert Affairs Conference in Shenzhen, China, in April 2015 on the topic of U.S. best practices in city/county management and innovative solutions for urbanization. The conference will attract a large number of Chinese national and sub-national government officials and state-owned enterprise representatives and ICMA members and other experts who are interested in offering technical assistance and/or training in China under the new MOU.
Pre-conference and post-conference study tours will provide an opportunity to enrich and extend the experience with visits to historical and cultural landmarks. A brownfields conference co-sponsored with the National Institute of Standards and Technology is also in the planning stages.