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April 17, 2010

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Vibrant district home to diversity

A World Expo 2010 forum on "Better City, Better Life" will be held tomorrow in Changning District to explore community renovation and overall city development.

It will focus on quality of the urban environment, ecological concerns, public services in communities, digital life, harmonious interpersonal relationships and cultural diversity.

The aim is to make the district a better place to live.

Government officials and university experts will give speeches on the living environment in Chinese cities, community renovation and low-carbon practices, public services in local communities, digital communities and community quality.

Changning, the west gate of Shanghai, is regarded as one of the best districts in Shanghai, featuring a comfortable living environment, convenient transport, a strong cultural atmosphere and digital communities.

The 28-square-kilometer district contains Hongqiao International Airport, Hongqiao Development Zone and Gubei international community.

The international district is home to around 35,000 expats and numerous consulates general, diplomats' residences and chambers of commerce.

Discussions will involve experts, officials, expats, writers, workers in residence committees and business people.

Four of Shanghai's 12 historic conservations areas are in Changning District: along Hongqiao Road, Xinhua Road, Yuyuan and Hengshan roads and the Fuxing Road area of around 7.5 square kilometers.

A city has been likened to a human body, with communities its organs and residents like its blood vessels. When blood vessels and organs work well together, the body functions well.

As a district with a great many expats, diverse cultures and historic areas, Changning has been trying to help people from all over the world unite as a family, in which each culture shines.

Changning District is very international. It has 21 foreign consulates, more than 3,000 foreign-invested enterprises and institutions, and 350,000 permanent foreign residents from 114 countries and regions.

Foreign residents are already taking actions for the upcoming World Expo 2010 Shanghai. More than 5,000 expats have joined the district's Foreign Volunteer Team and taken part in Expo-related activities to improve the community as a whole.

They volunteer in orphanages, retirement homes, schools for visually and hearing-impaired children and other places. They are traffic attendants at busy intersections and teachers in language salons.

Feiler Alfred from Austria is an enthusiastic volunteer and when he is off work he helps clear litter from public areas.

"The Expo is more than for Shanghainese. It's for people all over the world," Alfred says in Chinese. "We need to be participants rather than audience."

It is hard to imagine that seven or eight years ago, expats were so uncomfortable that they did not want Chinese community staff to visit their residence buildings.

With the motto of "convenient, comfortable and cheerful," Changning provides foreign residents a "Living in Changning Guidebook and Map" in English, a bilingual monthly newsletter and a multi-language official Website in English, Japanese, Korean and French. Topical brochures in English are available.

Community clubs are bringing people together.

In Zhouqiao Community, residents joke that they have singing in the first half of the year, dancing in the second half and table tennis all year round with neighbors.

As the area has developed, high-rises have replaced low-rise neighborly living, making it more difficult to maintain connections.

But in Zhouqiao, the community has 126 cultural groups and 10,000 people have taken part, more than 60 percent of the community.

Meng Xiuqin, a retired worker, is busy learning English. "However difficult it is, I should be able to speak a bit of English," he says. "Although I am old, I can show the enthusiasm of the Shanghainese people."

Meng has benefited from the district's efforts to unite people digitally.

At facilities for the aged, a digital system called "global eye" connects the seniors with their families and enables family members to "see" what they are doing during the day.

Digital services are being expanded in libraries and community public health centers so residents can receive faster service.


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