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April 23, 2010

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Waltzing to a modern tempo

MY first experience of China dates back to 1984 when I visited as CEO of leading Austrian bank Creditanstalt and saw a totally different country. In the past 30 years, China's development has been tremendous and I had the chance to experience these fast changes during numerous visits. I truly admire the courage and wisdom of the Chinese leadership, supported by the diligence and eagerness to improve life shown by the Chinese people.

I am confident this World Expo will be a historic one, evidenced by the number of participating countries and visitors, the size of the Expo area, the dedication by participating countries, international organizations and cities and, last but not least, the money which is being invested into pavilions and projects.

Austria definitely considers World Expo Shanghai as the largest participation project in its Expo history. We know it is important for the further deepening of our historically excellent relationship with China, not only in the fields of economy but also in politics, culture and education. We consider Expo Shanghai as a chance to further strengthen the ties of our friendship with China.

Austrian-Chinese relations have developed in a very positive way: After important milestones such as the founding of the first Austrian commercial section in Beijing in 1966 and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Austria in 1971, more than 370 Austrian companies today are represented in China.

It is Austria's most important trading partner in Asia and plays an important role as a supplier in the fields of electronics, textiles, leather goods and toys. In return, the Chinese economy has a high demand for technical knowledge related to industrial plants and the automotive and mechanical engineering sectors. Seminal fields such as environmental technology, renewable energy and a reasonable handling of natural resources are full of potential and are yet to a vast extent under utilized.

Innovation and creativity have turned a small country like Austria into one of the world's leading nations in the field of environmental technology. While the Expo theme "Better City, Better Life" searches for answers and approaches to solve the most important global challenges of the 21st century, Austria can contribute with its most innovative knowledge in the fields of economy and science.

Exchange programs as well as Austria's first bilateral academic agreement with a non-European country enable an increasing exchange of students and scientists in research and academic fields. Several sister city relationships between Chinese and Austrian regions and cities - such as that between Shanghai and Mozart's hometown Salzburg - illustrate the friendship.

The most recent demonstration of this special relationship was exemplified by the visit of the Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer in January. In Shanghai, the Austrian Federal President checked the progress of the Austria Pavilion and with officials of the Expo Bureau he unveiled the name of the pavilion.

In addition to economic aspects, we would also like to focus on Austria as a holiday destination. We invite Chinese and international visitors to get to know a country where the people know how to live, where culture and nature are linked in an interesting sort of way, and where, finally, tradition is sophisticatedly combined with innovation.

Apart from the excellent quality of living in Austria, with its pure and healthy waters, unpolluted air and the diverse cultural landscape, the Austrian people's pleasure in enjoying their way of living and life itself offers the perfect basis for slowing down - as a kind of counter world to the hectic life experienced in Chinese megacities.

(This message has been abridged to suit the limited space.)


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