Hamburg (Germany) and Shanghai

Source : Division for International Co-operation Hamburg Senate Chancellery


Character, formal status, start and duration of the partnership

The city of Hamburg and the city of Shanghai undertook, in 1986, a formal agreement which was later followed, in 2009, by the memorandum on cooperation as part of the Hamburg CHINA TIME 2008 initiative. It formalized an already long-standing 150 year collaboration between the two strategically situated ports. Not only have both cities always been important harbor cities, but have also held a prestigious role due to the intense commercial activity, which have also subsequently contributed to their expansion of city limits and high population density. Another common peculiarity that gave the basis for signing such a productive partnership is that Hamburg and Shanghai are ruled only and directly by the state. In fact Hamburg as a Bundesland, and Shanghai as being ruled by the central Chinese government have the character of a province, hence are not ruled by a local government.

The relationship is not only supported from the cities itself but, depending on the projects, it is funded also through additional activities, such as the Chamber of Commerce.

Main topics addressed and activities undertaken under the partnership

Hamburg and Shanghai share many common aspects, the cooperation between the cities covers a wide range of topics : from economy to education and science, from tourism and culture to city marketing. The agreement also deals with youth and civil society organizations, health, urban planning and development, environmental protection, justice and security, sports, experts exchange program, financial control. The priority topics are revisited and agreed between the cities every two years in the Memorandum on Cooperation and the new Memorandum has been recently signed by both Mayors at the EXPO.

The continuity in communicating is assured by the presence of a Delegation Office set in Shanghai which is run in cooperation with the International Chamber of Commerce of Hamburg.

Key achievements within the partnership

From both sides, such a long lasting cooperation initiative has been prosperous especially in the field of urban development, strongly linked with the expansion phenomena of urban centers. Reinforced economic ties have made possible constant exchanges of experts. The constant communication leads to a successful better understanding on both sides.

Future expectations and expected development of the partnership

The Hamburg - Shanghai experience is working well with special thanks to the long lasting cooperation which has fostered a solid foundation on which future linkages can be further.

Hamburg is the only German city that represents itself with an own pavilion, the Hamburg House which is the first passive house in China.

Key obstacles and weaknesses in the partnership

Overall, the evaluation of the relationship between Hamburg and Shanghai has been mutually positive despite the difficulties during the early stages of the partnership. The language barrier remains a major hindrance in communicating which, besides the natural challenge of distance, underpins the partnership weakness.

Needs and wishes for support to improve the partnership

With the exception of language and distance difficulties, the city of Hamburg deems there are no real needs for supporting the partnership due to the fact that it has been upgraded and improved during the past years.

A final advice from the city of Hamburg is to bear in mind the importance of having sufficient funds and well prepared expert staff.

City of Hamburg

Hamburg is a major port city situated on the Elbe River in northern Germany. With nearly 2 million of inhabitants, it is Germany’s second-largest city after Berlin. The Greater Hamburg Metropolitan Region has a population of about 4 million inhabitants. Hamburg is at the same time one of the 16 German Bundesländer (city-states) and it is the economic and cultural centre of Northern Germany. After German reunification, Hamburg recovered the eastern portion of its hinterland, becoming by far the fastest-growing port in Europe. The city is known to be one of the richest metropolitan areas in the European Union, like Brussels and London. Hamburg is the 2011 winner of the European Green Capital title. The city was recognized to have set very ambitious future plans in the field of climate and environmental protection.

City of Shanghai


With the introduction of reform and opening, population mobility has risen dramatically also in the Shanghai province. The “floating population” moving from the countryside is causing a rapid urbanization of the country especially in the most economically wealth areas such as Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin. Here the urbanization level reaches the 70 % and the urban population has a density of about 630 inhabitants/square kilometer. Between 1990 and 2000, the average annual growth rate of the urban population in Shanghai was about 2,2 % (IIASA, 2003). Despite the income improvement, rural migrants in Shanghai are still segregated and a dual-society is the one that the city has got today. Migrants normally live in difficult situations and will hardly upgrade in the social tiers.


This case study belongs to the file « Europe - China Exchange Platform Survey »