On Monday 8th June, the Province of Antwerp welcomed a delegation from its sister province Shaanxi on the occasion of their 30 year long partnership. During the visit, the economic relations which the province of Antwerp has developed with the Chinese province Shaanxi, were further strengthened. The delegation visited VITO in Mol and signed a renewed cooperation agreement. They also visited Janssen Pharmaceutica, Umicore (Hoboken) and Thomas More (Turnhout).

The Province of Antwerp has been having a friendship agreement with Shaanxi for 30 years now. It is not only her eldest friendship with a foreign partner province, but also the first between a Belgian and a Chinese province.

The collaboration with Shaanxi goes back to 1985, with over the years, projects ranging from education and economic fora to development cooperation and cultural exhibitions. “The importance of China for our economy – including the port of Antwerp – should not be overstated. In recent years, the focus is therefore more on agriculture, cleantech and the economy. Each year, The Province of Antwerp arranges 6 semester scholarships to students from the University of Antwerp to study Chinese in Xi’an.”, explains Ludwig Calluwé, deputy for economy and international cooperation.

Following this special anniversary, the Province of Antwerp organised several visits to leading companies. “This way, we introduced the Chinese partners to the many advantages, opportunities and attractiveness of the Antwerp region. This visit is an excellent opportunity to show our impressive diversity and the numerous and often very innovative companies and SMEs, and of course the passionate, creative and often flexible people. With our sister province Shaanxi we share our greatest ambitions on economic, environmental, cultural and social level”, says Cathy Berx, governer of the Province of Antwerp.


VITO has also established close partnerships in the Chinese province thanks to SPIERCE (Schaanxi Provincial Institute of Energy Resources and Chemical Engineering), the local scientific institute for energy and chemistry. With the arrival of the delegation, we took the opportunity to strengthen our ties with a visit to VITO and the signing of a renewed cooperation agreement. “In the renewed ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ cooperation agreement, the focus is on exchanging information about recycling industrial waste and CO2, as well as research into energy-saving building materials,” says Dirk Fransaer, Managing Director, VITO. “The intended cooperation is thus responding to major societal and economic challenges in both regions.”

Janssen Pharmaceutica

The collaboration between the Province of Antwerp and Shaanxi originated from a proposal by Paul Janssen. The Flemish CEO was the first one who looked beyond the coastal regions of China and concluded a joint venture in the west side of the country. Meanwhile, Xi’an is the largest pharmaceutical joint venture in the country. Tom Heyman, CEO of Janssen Pharmaceutica: “We feel very honoured by this visit. The relations between Janssen Pharmaceutica and China have a long history and are still outstanding. If you want to play internationally, you have to be present in China. At the moment, we are building a new ultramodern factory for the Asian market.”


On Monday, the delegation visited the site of Umicore in Hoboken. This is Umicore’s largest refining and recycling plant for the processing of precious and other metals. From waste products of the industry and end-life products such as electronic scrap and catalysts, 17 different metals can be regained. After a short introduction the delegation could go see some steps in the recycling process on the site.

Turnhout city - Thomas More

Since 2001, the city of Turnhout has been having a friendship with the Chinese city Hanzhong in the province Shaanxi. In the past years of cooperation, various activities have already taken place: environmental internship, exhibitions, exchange project between art academies, health care internship, study visits within the framework of the partnership, exchange between photographers and so on.  At the moment, Hanzhong and Turnhout are mainly focussing on health care, more specifically on elderly care. During a health care internship, several examples of elderly care were presented and visited in Turnhout. The theme dementia is also strongly addressed in this exchange. In the context of exchanges around elderly care, contacts were established between two schools (Thomas More in Turnhout and Hanzhong Vocational and Technical College (Department of Nursing) in Hanzhong to exchange knowledge on nursing / elderly care.

The delegation visited the Campus Thomas More in Turnhout. During the visit, they were given a presentation of the programmes and the delegation was shown around the campus, where they also visited the modern skills lab of the school.


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