With no effort being spared this year at raising the international level of Nanjing, new non-profit organisations are popping up all over the city, in all divisions of society; organisations such as the Nanjing Foreign Affairs Service Association (NFASA).
There is little that better signifies the international stature of a city than its airport. Over the past few years, the number of direct international flights out of Nanjing Lukou International Airport has quadrupled.
Until recently, a common misconception was that only first tier cities such as Beijing and Shanghai had anything to offer by way of Western food; in Nanjing, 10 years ago most Nanjingers would only be able to name a few fast food restaurants such as KFC and McDonald’s. Today however, Nanjing is developing with a thriving and international dining scene that complements local cuisine.
From food to linguistics; English is no more the only concentration for language learners. People come to an understanding of more diverse cultures by learning other languages, such as French, German, Japanese, Korean and so on. A bucket load of language exchange events take place on a weekly basis all around Nanjing.
As a hub of education, and in order to attract and encourage more outstanding international students to study and engage in academic research in Nanjing, the government established a “Foreign Student Scholarship” as long ago as 2013. Each year, more than 1,300 foreign students from 83 countries, including those in Asia, Africa and Europe receive scholarships worth a total of over ¥20 million.
This year, however, the mission has switched into overdrive. The “Number 1 Official Document” (一号文) each year released by the municipal government to hone the focus of the city’s work is in 2019 headlined with the word “internationalisation” (国际化).
It is with this as a backdrop that 23 March sees the official opening of the NFASA. The rules for the establishing of such an official association in China are many and complex. According to Chinese law, Articles of Association need be drawn up, including first and foremost, the requirement for five “sponsor members”. In the case of the NFASA, the sponsors represent the five fields of culture, commerce, healthcare, education, plus science and technology, all areas in which Nanjing’s foreign community have keen interest. The NFASA’s sponsors are Nanjing Hefu Cultural Media, Sharehouse (Nanjing), Nanjing No. 1 Hospital, Nanjing International School, plus the Nanjing Economic and Technological Development Zone Science and Technology Association.
Back in September last year, the first member representative conference for the new Association was held, at which, in order for the Association to be recognised under Chinese law, representatives reviewed and unanimously approved the “Nanjing Foreign Affairs Service Association Charter (Draft)”, together with the first council members; Chairman of the Board, Cao Wentang; Deputy Directors, Dong Jinming, Wang Shukui, Li Huichuan and He Wen; Directors, Liu Haining, Dai Jun, and Shi Shouning; plus concurrent Association Secretary, He Wen.
The Association’s mission is to carry out contact, communication and service work, by acting as a bridge between the city’s government organs, enterprises, institutions, schools, communities and other social organisations, as well as individual foreigners in Nanjing. The Association also aims to provide greater convenience for foreigners in Nanjing through assistance with shopping, housekeeping, education, healthcare, etc., so as to improve the livelihoods of foreigners in the city, as well as the city’s overall internationalisation.
Projects being undertaken by the Association to date include working with authorities at Nanjing South Railway Station to provide English language signage at the ticket office, an obvious choice given that foreigners in China are virtually bound into collecting tickets in person, unlike locals who may simply use their ID card and/or face. It is hoped that, in time, additional English language may also be employed on the Nanjing public transportation system where currently there remains only Chinese.
Elsewhere, a series of dialogues have been initiated, with the management of Nanjing residential compounds in which live a considerable number of foreigners. By doing such, it is hoped to improve various amenities and services for the international community.
Hence to the physical home of the NFASA, a purpose-built facility in the Xianlin High Tech Innovation Park not far from Nanjing International School. The modern, contemporary design includes a café space (with the provision of operations for such subcontracted out to a third party supplier), an “art corner” that shall feature revolving exhibitions by local artists and a product display area in which is on show some of the many gifts the Foreign Affairs Office has received from Nanjing’s sister cities over the years.
Meetings, training programs, language exchange salons are but three example of uses to which the NFASA event space shall be put. Qualifying members of the Association shall be permitted complimentary use of the space for their own events and activities.
In the next steps, NFASA will play a role of contact, guidance and service, to enhance the sense of belonging for foreigners living and working in Nanjing. The Association may also accumulate various resources that are only open to the outside world, and thus make new contribution to the city’s economic and social development, together with the ongoing internationalisation of Nanjing.