District well prepared for diplomats from Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa to descend

The Siming district of Xiamen, in eastern Fujian province, is striding onto the global stage in a big way.

As the central area of Xiamen, the district, playing host to the ninth BRICS Summit between Sept 3 and 5, is naturally where most of the giant event's multi-cultural communications play out.

In the run-up to the summit, there were preparations taking place on the streets affecting people from all walks of life. Take Shi Meng, a 5 year old. Recently he and his grandmother were walking about the district, when the boy spotted a paper box lying on the ground. Without hesitating, he immediately handed it to his grandma.

Shi Meng knows having a clean town is important. To welcome the guests coming from around the world, the district organized voluntary events in July to encourage people to care more about the little things that matter. Like never throwing litter away carelessly, not smoking, as well as protecting public property.

To improve the environment, the district tore down illegal buildings and unauthorized advertising boards, restored old residential communities and constructed scenic night spots.

Statistics showed that the average air quality in the district this year was measured as good 97.5 percent of the time.

The adjacent 1.87-square-kilometer beautiful and tranquil Gulangyu Island, known locally as the garden in the sea, joined the list of UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites in July.

Siming district also offers its visitors a sweep of buildings in the European, Gothic, traditional Chinese and local styles.

Many international activities, including piano festivals, beach volleyball games and marathons are held there.

The district has attracted many corporations to open offices there, as it has progressed its economic and structural transformation.

Senior executive Chen Xiaolong at sportswear group ANTA Sports Products, which has offices in Xiamen, said these corporate offices attract resources from far and wide.

The company settled in Siming district in 2012, and ANTA says its presence there has provided a boost, helping its market value since the move to top 70 billion yuan ($10.7 billion).

Another local company, Xiamen Hengxing Group, went global by purchasing coal companies in Southeast Asia and North America, and building factories there.

In the first half of the year, 65 businesses with headquarters in Siming district paid more than 2.7 billion yuan in taxes.

Statistics from the local government show that Siming's GDP reached 55.58 billion yuan in the first six months of 2017, up 7.2 percent year-on-year.

Community helps international residents

Chen Yuqing, a 63-year-old volunteer of Guanren residential community, started taking English classes a while back. Now she can talk to foreigners, using simple English words.

Guanren residential community has about 1,300 foreign residents from 42 countries and regions living there, the most in the city.

It has encouraged foreign residents to participate in volunteer events, to improve their sense of belonging.

Angela Lehmann, from Australia, was given a leadership role, being placed in charge of planning in the community.

She said the job is great fun, because it can help residents with different cultural backgrounds to understand each other.

Various events have been organized to help the foreign residents to adapt.

Any foreign citizens interested in Chinese culture have free access to classes in traditional Chinese arts, including oil and ink painting, tai chi and paper-cutting.

Participants can also learn folk papermaking and board carving crafts in ancient villages in Longyan city in Fujian province.

French chef Gregory Louraichi, 36, from a popular seaside resort in Bordeaux, opened a successful restaurant near the community.

He said that he first knew of China as "a world full of gold", from reading a book written by Marco Polo.

Louraichi came to Xiamen in 2006 and after several years of exploring, taking the post of executive chef at a French five-star restaurant.

The first time he got off the plane in Xiamen, the blue sky, fresh air and mild sunlight reminded him of his hometown, he said.

Two of Greg's sons were born in Xiamen. His wife is from Jiangxi province.

Last year, he returned home to let his son experience Christmas in France.

Louraichi said he didn't know that the Guanren residential community was ready to organize Western festivals to boost cultural exchanges.

What foreigners say

George Feldman, from the United States, is an English-Chinese translation major at Xiamen University. He said he is thinking about finding a job in the city after graduation.

Xiamen is an international city with a very diverse and inclusive culture, Feldman said.

Russian teacher Maria Gromakova, has worked in several cities in China, but chose to stay in Xiamen since 2010 as an expat teacher at Xiamen University.

"I decided to move to somewhere south because I like greenery and the mild climate," she said.

"I also love the people here. They are very friendly and open, and they know how to enjoy life," Gromakova added.

"Xiamen is a little bit like a village, but in a good way. On one hand, you have the convenience and comfortable life of a village."

She said this made her feel very safe, with its very slow style and the feeling that everyone knows each other.

"But on the other hand, you can have everything you need, as in any modern city with hospitals, theaters, and museums."

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