Stunning Changes Seen in ICMA China Programs

ICMA featured prominently in a number of high-profile events in China recently through the work of the ICMA China Center and its partners.

ARTICLE | May 7, 2018
By Ellen Foreman
renewing agreement signing ceremony in Beijing with ICMA and CUPL
Renewal of ICMA China Center Agreement with CUPL President Huang Jin

ICMA’s China Center achieved several major milestones in April 2018 and continues to break new ground in identifying and sharing municipal best practices. “The China Center was formed seven years ago to establish a footprint for helping to grow the practice of professional local government management in the largest country in the world,” said David Grossman, ICMA director of Global Programs. Since forming in 2011, the center has worked with its partners to organize guest lecturers, host study tours in both the United States and China, organize conference speakers for municipal management events in both the United States and China, and offer consulting support.

The ICMA delegation that traveled to China in 2018 included ICMA President David Johnstone, city manager of Candiac, Quebec, as well as ICMA Past President Lee Feldman, city manager, Fort Lauderdale, Florida (see complete list below).


  • In Beijing, ICMA renewed its 2011 agreement with China University of Political Science and Law, which is the foundation of the ICMA China Center. The center will continue to support ICMA guest lecturers, facilitate study tours to the United States and China, and develop curriculum and materials based on ICMA’s resources. University President Huang Jin and Vice President Chang Baoguo were on hand for the signing ceremony.
  • The China Center unveiled the Mandarin version of the ICMA Press book “Local Planning,” a collaboration between ICMA and the National Academy of Mayors.
  • Participants toured and discussed consulting opportunities at the new Xiong'an District—a vast, new development expected to reach a population of 70 million spearheaded by President Xi Jinping to both relieve the overcrowding in Beijing and provide high-quality jobs.
  • The delegation got a sneak peek at a nearly complete second ICMA China Training Center, which will be housed in the port city of Qingdao. The center occupies space in the Shibei District Urban Governance Building. The district is a model for its use of big data in almost every aspect of city life. The building features an impressive “command center,” where staff members can pinpoint municipal problems and quickly develop and deploy solutions.
  • ICMA members featured prominently at the 2018 International City Management Qingdao Annual Conference, which is sponsored by SAFEA (State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs). ICMA is the only association certified by SAFEA to offer local government management training in China. Keynotes and panels featured Feldman, Johnstone,  Jay Gonzalez, Rich Kerbel, Bill Monahan, and Yuejiao Liu.
  • As part of the Qingdao information exchange, the ICMA delegation split into four groups and focused on different aspects of city life, meeting with local officials and sharing ideas that ranged from economic growth to traffic control.
  • In Shenzen, ICMA members were featured presenters at the 16th Conference on International Exchange of Professionals. The conference was attended by more than 10,000 Chinese and foreign local government officials. ICMA had a booth and shared information on programs offered by the China Center.
  • Last October, a delegation from Guangzhou visited New England to learn about developing historical trails. The ICMA delegation, which included one of the hosts of the U.S. visit, Rich Kerbel, saw the progress of the Guangzhou historical trail.
  • At the Fourth Conference on Land Engineering and Construction, held in Xi’an, ICMA presenters focused on brownfields reclamation and creative land reuse. After the conference, ICMA Strategic Partner Shaanxi Land Engineering Construction Group shared a case study in the city of Weinan.
  • The delegation also visited Shiquan County, one of the poorest counties in the country. The local government has developed a robust economic development plan that supports local farmers. The Shiquan Raofeng Post-Ecological Health Endowment Development project demonstrates the role of public-private partnerships in addressing economic growth.

“It is stunning to see the changes in both the practice of local governance in China and the evolution of the ICMA China Center since our initial meetings in 2008,” said Lee Feldman. One confounding example of Chinese urban planning is the “1,000-year plan” for the Xiong'an district and other cities. “We have difficulty planning a few years ahead, given the pace of technological change. How can you make a 1,000-year plan work?” Feldman asked. One of the city’s leaders talked about the importance of a vision given that the number of rural residents moving to cities in China is about 1 million people per month with no signs of slowing. Being prepared for this dramatic societal shift is why municipal leadership and management is a hot topic in China.


ICMA Delegation

Peter Agh

Regional Director ICMA Europe

Ignacio Dayrit

Center for Creative Land Recycling, San Francisco, CA

Lee Feldman

City Manager, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Ellen Foreman

ICMA Director of Marketing and Outreach

Michael Garvey

ICMA State Liaison, Northern California

Jay Gonzalez

Professor of Public Administration, Golden Gate University

David Grossman

ICMA Director of Global Programs

Jere (Trey) Hess

PPM consultants, Inc.

Klaudia Homolova

Project Manager, Hurbanovo, Slovak Republic

David Johnstone

City Manager Candiac, Quebec, Canada

Richard Kerbel

Kerbel Consulting

Kamran Khan

Emerging Infra-Tech Partners

Daniet Moges

ICMA Global Program Manager 

Yuejiao Liu

Project Manager, Austin, TX

Bill Monahan

Integrity Public Management, LLC

Linda Yang

Terracon Consultants, Inc

Luo Lijun

ICMA China Center and Organizer




Thanks for the excellent

Thanks for the excellent summary of the recent study tour to China.  This was the best of the several tours that the ICMA China Center has organized to bring our members into contact with local government officials in various settings in China.  The variety of sites, presentations, tours, and interactions was exceptional as the Center has expanded connections throughout the country.  The new training center being established in Qingdao should provide many opportunities for ICMA to bring best practices and focused local government training to our counterparts in Qingdao.  So much progress has been made by the Center over the past seven years that the ICMA brand is well established.  I hope more members will step forward and get involved in future Center activities to contribute their knowledge and experience.  They will find the experience to be very rewarding!

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