Some 15 Finnish towns have twinned with friendship cities in China
In recent years, a large number of Finnish cities have acquired themselves a friendship city in China. By such town twinning, Finns are trying to promote Finnish industry and trade with the Orient, while the goal of the Chinese is to gain knowledge of Finnish technology know-how, education, and local administration.
Eeva Rautiainen from the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities says that some 15 Finnish cities already have a Chinese twin. Among them are large cities such as Espoo, Vantaa, and Lahti, but also smaller ones, for example Riihimäki, Varkaus, and Akaa (formed when Toijala and Viiala were merged this January) have established such agreements in China.
Finnish cities acquired friendship towns in China particularly at the turn of the millennium.
According to Rautiainen, such partnership cities are important for companies, as in China the government still plays a major role in the commercial and industrial life.
Many Chinese cities have also made enquiries about friendship towns in Finland.
"More Chinese delegations would be willing to come to Finland than Finnish municipalities simply could afford any longer", notes Rautiainen.
Finnish cities have differing opinions of town twinning. For example, Mayor Henry Lindelöf from the City of Kotka says that excursions to the sister city Taizhou have managed to entice representatives from just a few companies into joining them.
On the other hand, the City of Tampere has previously cooperated with the Chinese city Guangzhou, and now Tampere would be willing to establish a proper sister-city relationship with its Chinese counterpart.
Tommi Rasila, the Managing Director of the Tampere Chamber of Commerce & Industry, comments that personal contacts in China are useful when establishing commercial relationships with Chinese enterprises.
In general, many municipalities face a lack of funding for the establishment of friendship city relations.
The mergers of cities and municipalities are another factor that is bound to decrease the number of twin cities. For example the city of Salo, a merger of ten municipalities, may have to reduce the number of its friendship cities, as the costs caused by trips and entertainment are criticised as being simply too high.
However, apart from other international cooperation projects, a town twinning agreement that lasts for several decades is still necessary, says Terhikki Heinonen, the coordinator for international affairs in Salo.
"In today’s world of instant projects it is good to have also some long-term agreements", notes Heinonen.
Finnish municipalities are engaged in twinning activities with 1,400 twin towns in more than 40 countries, while some 60 per cent of these links are with the Nordic countries. The other European sister towns of Finnish municipalities are located primarily in Hungary, Germany, the Baltic States, and in Russia.
The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities