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50 foreigners honored for contributions to Shanghai

By LIN SHUJUAN in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2023-12-04 09:42

Recipients of the 2023 Shanghai Magnolia Silver Award display their certificates on Sunday. [Photo by Gao Erqiang/China Daily]

Shanghai presented its annual Magnolia Silver Awards to 50 outstanding foreigners from 15 countries on Sunday, in recognition of their contributions to the city's development and international exchanges.

Kong Fu'an, director-general of the Shanghai Foreign Affairs Office, conferred the medals and certificates to the recipients at a ceremony held at the Bellagio Shanghai.

Kong said that as an international, innovative and inclusive city, Shanghai has taken the lead in achieving Chinese-style modernization. In the process, foreigners, foreign-invested enterprises and foreign institutions in the city have been "not only witnesses, but also active participants and contributors".

In his speech, Kong named a few recipients, including Singaporean Anu Rathninde, Asia-Pacific president of Johnson Controls, for his active contribution as a member of the International Business Leaders' Advisory Council for the Mayor of Shanghai to help the city optimize its business environment.

Kong also credited Nicolas Jean Francois Vix from France for his efforts to promote green finance, renminbi internationalization and one-stop cross-border financial services since he became the president of Credit Agricole (China).

The director-general praised Robert Cristian Mitrofan, chief representative of the Romanian Federation of Industry and Commerce in China, for his commitment to boosting trade cooperation and business governance and building an economic and trade bridge between China and Romania.

Kong also mentioned Christopher John Guzy, chief technology officer at Shanghai Refire Group, for his leadership in the construction of China's first domestic fuel cell stack production line in Shanghai and the localization of its key components. Guzy hails from the United States.

Also among the recipients was Dutch entrepreneur Joost Vlaanderen, who has led Mondelez International in actively participating in Shanghai's support for poverty alleviation in Honghe prefecture, Yunnan province.

"You use your talents, enthusiasm and dedication to bring openness, vitality, prosperity and progress to Shanghai, making this city a better place," Kong said.

Alexander Rhys Gregg-Smith, senior vice-president at Bureau Veritas, a leading company in the global shipping industry, thanked the Shanghai government and people for the honor as he spoke on behalf of the recipients.

"The Magnolia Award is more than a mere medal or title, it is a symbol of the enthusiastic support and warm welcome consistently felt in this truly international megacity," said Gregg-Smith, who is from the United Kingdom.

The fact that the recipients, including seven female honorees, come from diverse backgrounds and sectors, "is a true reflection of the inclusive, diverse and dynamic qualities that make up Shanghai, a city that not only opens its arms to global talent and businesses but also provides fertile ground enabling them to flourish, grow and succeed", he added.

Shen Dinggang, a Chinese American, was another award winner who spoke with China Daily about his reciprocated experience in Shanghai.

Shen worked overseas, mostly in the US, for more than two decades after completing his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

In 2018, he returned to Shanghai and co-founded United Imaging Intelligence, which has since become a global leader in the manufacturing of advanced intelligent medical imaging and radiotherapy equipment. In 2020, he founded the School of Biomedical Engineering at ShanghaiTech University.

Shen attributed the company's rapid growth to Shanghai's optimal environment for the industrial development of artificial intelligence.

Shanghai, which is aiming to become an international AI hub, has promulgated a series of policies and provided businesses with a lot of government support.

"Shanghai offered me a great education and has in recent years provided me great opportunities to start a business and a new career," Shen said.

Shanghai began handing out Magnolia Silver Awards to expats in 1989 and added the Magnolia Gold Award and honorary citizenship in 1992 and 1997, respectively. Altogether, 1,827 foreigners have received these honors over the past 34 years.

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