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Guangzhou and Lyon over two centuries of contact: Alain Labat
Update: 2018-05-25     Source: newsgd.com

Alain Labat, President of the Federation des Association Franco-Chinoises, was the very first to encourage the Guangzhou-Lyon sister city relationship. He first came to Guangzhou in 1977, and has visited this city every year and owns various instigated various partnerships here.

Labat said he has a special interest in Guangzhou and is one of “the very few in France to have the privilege of seeing the huge changes in Guangzhou over the past 40 years”. Now he is an honored citizen of Guangzhou and indeed “Guangdong’s son-in-law” as his wife has Cantonese origins.

Alain Labat at the Lyon delegation’s press conference on May 6 [Photo\Newsgd.com]

Why did you choose to establish a sister relationship with Guangzhou in 1980s? And what you have done to organize this partnership?

Both Guangzhou and Lyon are historically important trading cities. Guangzhou was the start of the Maritime Silk Road while Lyon was one of the destinations of the Silk Road in Europe. The relationship between Guangzhou and Lyon did not begin in 1988 when we established the sister relationship but in fact much earlier in the nineteenth century.

At that time, Lyon was a main city for the silk business in France. Many silk merchants went to Guangzhou to buy raw silk. In 1913, Lyon University began to teach Chinese as people needed to speak Chinese and conduct business with China, especially with Guangzhou.

Because of the two cities’ long-lasting connection, I tried to link Lyon with Guangzhou when China began to show interest in forming sister city relationships in 1985. There was some unease in the beginning because few people in France knew about China back then. So I told them China was opening up and the pilot city would be Guangzhou. And if China was open to us, we had to be open to China as it would benefit Lyon if partnering with big cities like Guangzhou.

Over three decades of cooperation, Guangzhou has become an important partner for Lyon as more than 400 enterprises from Lyon and Rhone-Alpes have settled in Guangdong while over 3000 French people are living in the province. Most of these enterprises and people are in Guangzhou, the capital city.

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