Li Yifei looked proud when he talked about his home city, Yiwu, during his trip to the University of Chicago in July of 2015.
A booming city of 1.4 million people in China’s southeastern province of Zhejiang, Yiwu produces more than 60 percent of the world’s holiday decorations.
It also serves as the starting point for the largest railroad in the world, the Yiwu-Madrid line, also known as the “New Silk Road.”
While economic growth has always been his city’s top priority, Li, the municipal Party secretary of Yiwu, came to the University of Chicago on a different mission.
He led a delegation of 22 municipal leaders from Zhejiang province to attend a crash course on sustainable development.
“We’re here with the humble heart and strong curiosity of a student to study the latest thinking on urban sustainability and the successful experiences in U.S. cities,” said Li at a welcome reception.
The Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies hosted the training session. The annual program, jointly run by the Paulson Institute and the China Association of Mayors, covers a wide range of issues related to sustainability, from organic urban renewal and public transportation to municipal financing models for environmental projects and the protection of cultural heritage.