There may be more than 5,000 miles between Leeds and Hangzhou, but an important cultural link created three decades ago has been re-established.
A delegation from the Leeds City Region travelled to China last week to mark the 30th anniversary of the two cities being twinned.
In one of the first UK-Chinese city partnerships, Leeds and Hangzhou joined forces in 1988.
Strong links have since been established between schools, universities, sporting institutions and businesses over the last few decades.
Sharon Watson, artistic director of Phoenix Dance Theatre and chair of the Leeds2023 independent steering group, joined the delegation of city leaders including leader of the council, Coun Judith Blake.
Representatives from businesses across the city region, Kirklees and Bradford councils, and the Universities of Leeds, Bradford and Huddersfield also attended.
Alongside Zhang Jianting, vice chairman of the Standing Committee of Hangzhou People’s Congress, Coun Blake signed a new memorandum of understanding between the cities stating the importance of the partnership. It also contains new commitments from both cities to work together in preparation for the Leeds2023 year of culture, initiating an information exchange about technology, transport and a pledge to establish a link between the two cities’ library services.
Coun Blake said: “The relationship we share with Hangzhou has brought tremendous economic and business benefits to the Leeds city region and it continues to bear fruit in a huge variety of ways in Leeds - from the many students travelling to study at our universities to the Chinese Olympic athletes who have trained in our sporting facilities.
“But most of all it has given us the opportunity to discover and experience the best of our different cultures, to learn from one another and to celebrate the shared values which unite us.”
The Leeds City Region covers Barnsley, Bradford, Calderdale, Craven, Harrogate, Kirklees, Selby, Wakefield and York.