Stefan Burckhardt traveled to China at the end of January with a five-person delegation from the Alternative Energy Center to visit various institutes and companies.
Half of China was still on holiday following the New Year‘s festivities, so I was not even sure whether we would be able to complete our trip as planned. The goal of this 10-day tour was to learn how Chinese institutions use energy efficient building techniques.
The tour began in Beijing with a visit to the German Association for International Cooperation where we learned about Chinese law and regulations regarding energy standards. After a presentation of the „theory“ we moved directly into a practical exercise as we visited a high-rise apartment building currently undergoing renovations to improve energy efficiency. The North Koreans and the Chinese quickly began „talking shop“ about the building methods being used.
Could we build this type of environmentally friendly building in our country?
Although the translation of these discussions into Chinese, Korean and English – made the process rather slow, it was important for everyone to be able to understand as much as possible.
We are grateful to our dedicated translators.
One of the largest architectural offices opened their doors to us as well. Workers from Sunlay Design explained how other factors besides energy efficiency contribute to make a building environmentally friendly. Also in this case, participants engaged in lively and lengthy discussions so that we quickly decided to skip lunch in order to continue talking together and make it to the next appointment on time. Mr. Huang, head architect of the design department of the Academy for Building Research was expecting us. This state-run facility was initially rather skeptical about receiving North Korean visitors, but Mr. Huang was able to pave the way among his colleagues so that we were welcomed warmly and with pledges of support for the North Korean Alternative Energy Center.
After this meeting, I finally found time to talk to Mr. Jang to see about getting one of our wind measurement devices – an oscilloscope – repaired.
Talking and making calculations late into the night.
Two windmills are currently out of operation because the oscilloscope is required to repair their voltage converters. Of course, non-functioning windmills mean no electricity – so the chain of dependency becomes clear. With the help of a Chinese interpreter I was able to locate a factory-authorized repair shop the next day.
Next we took the overnight train to Harbin in the far northeastern corner of China. On that Sunday we took time to explore the tourist sites including the famous snow and ice sculpture park.
Harbin takes advantage of frigid temperatures in a creative way.
The following day, a local holiday, we were nevertheless able to visit two different companies. We spent three hours at each location discussing larger issues and just „talking shop“. Both general managers invited our group for a delicious feast after the meetings with the explanation that „this is an important holiday for us, which we would typically celebrate at home with our families. It would not be right to leave our foreign guests out in the cold and alone.“ Such sentiment is even more touching for the North Koreans, who certainly would have liked to be at home with their families on that special day. The response of our translator said it all:» I felt homesick this morning, but now I feel just fine. Thank you!“
In this way, we can be sure that the members of our delegation also took home some special personal memories from our trip together. The many positive encounters with Chinese show that these people too have a genuine interest in their country and their situation, and that they are ready to provide support.
I was also encouraged by the many open doors that we experienced. I look forward to more opportunities to be a bridge builder between China and North Korea!
Whether just a snack or an abundant feast – nothing beats a shared meal!