The upbeat assessment came after Dunedin City Council chief executive Paul Orders, Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie and deputy mayor Chris Staynes - travelling as a chamber board member - returned from a week-long trip to Shanghai.
They went to push the city's case for more activity in key areas, including encouraging more Chinese tourists to visit Dunedin, new business links between the cities and greater foreign investment. Mr Christie told the Otago Daily Times the delegation was given a ''very receptive'' welcome during a series of meetings they attended, including from senior members of the Shanghai foreign affairs office and Shanghai education sector representatives.
He saw potential for lucrative new deals in the education sector, beyond existing relationships enjoyed by the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic in Shanghai.That could result in more direct links between Dunedin's primary and high schools and their counterparts in China, opening the door for exchanges of pupils and teachers and also training opportunities, curriculum sharing and possibly even the sale of educational products and systems, he said.
''We are talking about opportunities around export education, where we can teach into their curriculum ... the things that as a city or a country we have developed some knowledge in.
''Hopefully, any school in the city that wants to have a relationship could. There's certainly enough schools up there in Shanghai.''
Asked how Dunedin could profit from the exchanges, Mr Christie said discussions were continuing with both Education Dunedin and Education New Zealand.
However, some deals could be ready to sign as early as April next year, when Mayor Dave Cull will travell to China to renew the two cities' sister city relationship for a further three years.
Mr Christie said the hope was to position Dunedin as an education centre capable of leveraging one of its competitive advantages.
''We have got to find a way to make sure there's an economic return for the city from this.''
Mr Orders said last month's trip to Shanghai laid the foundations for signing the new sister city agreement. The new three-year deal would be ''much more business focused'' and outline key initiatives to work on over the period, he said.
It would reflect a new type of relationship between sister cities, which sought to promote both cultural and economic developmnt, Mr Orders believed.
Mr Orders said ''considerable work'' had already gone into developing the relationship between Dunedin and Shanghai, which had ''paved the way for potentially a productive period of collaboration''.
''I believe we have entered into a new era of relationship with Shanghai,'' he said.
''It's a key relationship for Dunedin ... I haven't got any doubt about that.
''It represents an opportunity for the city which needs to be fully explored,'' he said.
Mr Christie said the delegation also met representatives from some of China's outbound tour operators, hoping to add Dunedin to more of their itineraries.
The companies were receptive but needed to know more about what Dunedin could offer and what tours might look like, he said.
That would be discussed with industry representatives in Dunedin over the coming months, then presented to operators in China to consider, he said.
There were also ''very real opportunities'' to encourage more Chinese investment in Dunedin, after talks with potential investors, including ''one or two'' who were ''significantly wealthy'', Mr Christie said.
Boosting education links between the cities could act as a ''forerunner'' to investment, by encouraging wealthy individuals in China to send their children to Dunedin to learn and building closer ties, he said.
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