CRISSCROSSING waterways, towering windmills, blooming tulips, together with open-minded people of different cultures, have made Amsterdam a unique multicultural metropolis.
Trade in the city started early in the 13th century. Its people were well informed of the importance of coexistence with heterogeneous cultures ever since the city was founded. The city has embraced a mixed culture comprised of diversified values, lifestyles, and religious beliefs among its people, an asset that has been constantly nurtured by an open and inclusive mindset.
A city going green
Mayor Eberhard van der Laan said the major problems challenging almost all the big cities in the world were the economy and transformation towards sustainable development. He said Amsterdam had undergone a transition from an industrial economy to a knowledge-based economy and is now marching towards becoming an open and innovative green economy.
“Amsterdam is becoming a laboratory in which its government, citizens, industry sectors and research institutions are testing their policies, services and products, with the aid of administrative skills and information technology,” said van der Laan.
“Amsterdam smart city” is a plan that best accounts for his idea. The purpose of the plan is to turn Amsterdam into a smart city in which capital and investment in communication and infrastructure can promote sustainable economic growth and improve people’s lives while natural resources are consumed in a highly efficient way. In the past three years, Amsterdam has succeeded in doing this.
Van der Laan explained that the plan was composed of five aspects: sustainability, jobs, traffic, public spaces and open data.
Take sustainable life as an example. Amsterdam is currently accommodating more than 400,000 households which discharge a third of the city’s carbon dioxide. To further cut emissions and reduce energy consumption, more than 500 households have installed smart electricity meters and some have installed energy-use feedback apparatus, which are useful in figuring out an energy-saving plan.
Utrechtsestraat Street is a good example of a sustainable public space. Shops on the street have installed smart electricity meters and feedback devices. Lamps and other electric appliances in the shops can be automatically adjusted or shut down through smart sockets. Lamps in the electric bus station are solar-powered and garbage boxes, which are also solar-powered, have internal compressing devices.
Amsterdam is a city of cyclists. According to official statistics, 58 percent of its population cycles every day. The city has about 881,000 bicycles in use and about 400 kilometers of bicycle lanes completed with supporting policies and facilities, such as bicycle rental points and parking lots. The city topped other cities in a report of 80 bicycle-friendly cities by Copenhagenize Consulting in 2011.
Van der Laan said he was most pleased when the mayor of another city said Amsterdam deserves its reputation for its openness and inclusiveness. “I was very proud upon hearing his comments, which suggested people from around the world may find a sense of belonging in Amsterdam,” said van der Laan. “It is natural for visitors to like our waterways, relaxed atmosphere and museums. However, I think the most important thing is that people enjoy life here. They are the best ambassadors of our city.”
Amsterdam has immigrants from more than 100 countries and their different cultural backgrounds have contributed to the city’s vitality, van der Laan said. “Cultural diversity has made the city more international. That means everyone, be it a businessman from China or a tourist from Brazil, will find a sense of belonging in the city.”
Van der Laan said Amsterdam’s cultural policy, which had supported a wide variety of art forms ranging from music, drama, painting, photography, dance, etc., may serve as a role model for Shenzhen.
A cultural report in 2003 showed that Amsterdam had the nation’s highest rate of citizen participation in art activities. Eighty-four percent of adults and 96 percent of children took pleasure from its theaters, museums, art galleries and other celebratory events.
Deu to its geographic location in Europe, Amsterdam has attracted many enterprises from China and North America. The city has become a stronghold for these companies to seize the European markets. Seven industries in its urban areas, logistics, IT, innovative industry, financial service, food and flowering industry, tourism and life science, are ascending to become the top in Europe.
Van der Laan said the market had provided great potential for Shenzhen enterprises. “Shenzhen enterprises are welcome to expand in Amsterdam by taking advantage of our internationalized service providers and talent networks,” he said.
Van der Laan said cooperation between the two cities can be carried out in multiple aspects, which is also helpful in promoting China-E.U. relations. “The direct flight between Amsterdam and Shenzhen is linking the two cities. It will bring them closer in the future,” he said.
Mayor of Amsterdam
Eberhard van der Laan
Eberhard van der Laan, born in Leiden, has been the mayor of Amsterdam since July 2010.
Before serving as mayor, he was minister of housing and integration in the Cabinet.
After graduating in law from the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam in 1983, van der Laan co-founded a law firm. As a lawyer, van der Laan paid close attention to social problems and he often spoke for small social organizations and marginalized groups.
City of Amsterdam
Originating from a small fishing village in the late 12th century, Amsterdam has become the largest city and the capital of the Netherlands with a population of about 820,000.
Located in the west of the country, the river Amstel runs through the city center and connects with other canals in Europe.
The city is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Dubbed “Venice of the North,” it has over 160 waterways connected by more than 1,000 bridges to form a unique urban landscape.
Its main attractions include the 17th-century canals of Amsterdam, the Van Gogh Museum, the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Museum and Anne Frank House.