Fourteen foreigners in Guangzhou were presented with Yangcheng Friendship Awards on Saturday for their significant contributions to the city.
Since their inauguration in 1996, 32 people have been awarded the honors (which take the alternative name for Guangzhou) by the city's foreign experts bureau. Ceremonies were also held in 2001 and 2004.
This year's winners hail from the United States, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand, France, Canada and Japan. Among them are doctors, company managers, teachers and musicians.
One of the recipients was Marc De Schutter, a Belgian who has lived in Guangzhou for 13 years.
He speaks fluent Chinese, is married to a Chinese, with whom he has twin daughters, and intends to apply for permanent residency.
"I love this city: I regard it as my second home," he told China Daily.
Schutter has been general manager of Purato Food CY Ltd since 1995. His vision and strategy helped transform the company from relative obscurity 10 years ago, to a well-known food brand in the Pearl River Delta region. It also now does significant business in Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao and Chengdu.
As a way to pay back Guangzhou for what it has given him, Schutter has set up scholarships and internship opportunities for local college students.
Another award-winner was Ron Houston from New Zealand who has lived in Guangzhou for the past nine years.
Being a Kiwi, Houston is a big fan of rugby.
"I was delighted to find that lots of local people like playing Western sports, so I get to play rugby with my friends once a week," he said.
About the city's living and working conditions, he said: "It's very welcoming of foreign cultures and people."
As a regional manager for Nestle in South China, Houston has helped develop the company's ice cream business.
"I think my biggest contribution to the city is that we have created lots of job opportunities for local people and done our bit for the city's economic development," he said.
Xu Ruisheng, vice-mayor of Guangzhou, said at the award ceremony: "Foreign experts have made great contributions to the city's development over the past 20 years.
"We hope the awards will encourage more foreign people to develop their careers here and be part of the city's modernization plan."