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Sister-cities officials to meet in Houston

By ZHAO HUANXIN in Washington | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-03-15 22:59

City officials from the world’s top two economies are expected to seek common solutions to problems ranging from developing smart cities to jump-starting communities when they gather in Houston in July for the fourth China-US Sister Cities Mayors Summit.

Built on the 40 years of partnership between the Sister Cities International (SCI) and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, the binational mayors summit, scheduled for July 17, will be a stellar venue to discuss and debate issues mayors “care deeply about”, said SCI Vice-Chair Carol Robertson Lopez.

Sister Cities International (SCI) Vice-Chair Carol Robertson Lopez (left first)and other guests attend a reception commemorating the 40th anniversary of China-US diplomatic relations and sister cities cooperation in Washington on Wednesday.
Zhao Huanxin/China Daily

“These issues include innovation and smart cities, educational opportunities and challenges for students studying in the United States and studying in China,” Lopez said at a reception commemorating the 40th anniversary of China-US diplomatic relations and sister cities cooperation in Washington on Wednesday.

“We will also have sessions on economic development, on how to jump-start our communities, and how to transcend our communities from being based on certain kinds of industry to move toward other industries,” she said at the gathering co-sponsored by SCI and the Chinese embassy in the US.

Roger-Mark De Souza, president and CEO of Sister Cities International, presents a certificate of celebration to Minister Xu Xueyuan of the Chinese embassy to mark the 40th anniversary of China-US diplomatic relations and binational citizen diplomacy cooperation at a reception at the embassy in Washington on Wednesday evening.
[Photo by Zhao Huanxin / China Daily]

Lopez, also chair of the upcoming Mayors Summit in Texas, said she believed that as the world becomes more complex, it becomes more imperative for mayors and other officials of China and the US to “come together for common solutions to problems that we all face”.

Sister-cities cooperation between China and the US has almost developed in tandem with the overall bilateral ties, according to Xu Xueyuan, a minister of the Chinese embassy.

Shortly after the establishment of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington in 1979, China’s Hubei province and the state of Ohio became the first pair of sister provinces/states, and Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu province, joined with St. Louis, capital of Missouri, to become the first pair of sister cities, Xu said at the reception.

The number of sister provinces/states and sister cities between China and the US has grown into 277 pairs, according to the embassy figures.

Xu said that sister-cities cooperation enjoys huge opportunities ahead, as China is a large market with more than 1.3 billion people, including a middle-income group of 400 million.

“Our cooperation in energy, agricultural products and infrastructure construction is very promising,” she said. “China is promoting a new model of urbanization with the people at the center, and the two sides can learn from each other and expand cooperation in urbanization and urban governance.”

The immediate economic benefits of sister-city connections with China have long been underappreciated, but cannot be ignored, Benjamin Leffel, a research fellow for the Center for Citizen Peacebuilding at University of California, Irvine, said in a study last May.

“In fact, the level of trade between a given Chinese city and a city in a foreign country tended to skyrocket immediately following the establishment of a sister city in that foreign country,” Leffel said.

Ron Nirenberg, SCI board chairman and also mayor of San Antonio, Texas, speaks a reception commemorating the 40th anniversary of China-US diplomatic relations and sister cities cooperation in Washington on Wednesday. Zhao Huanxin / China Daily

“But economic benefit is not the only reason certainly that we should encourage and uplift sister-city relationships,” Ron Nirenberg, SCI board chairman, said at Wednesday’s reception.

Nirenberg, also mayor of San Antonio, Texas, said that during the “trying times” in the world of politics, citizen diplomacy championed by sister cities through enhancing bonds between schools, businesses and people-to-people, is “building bridges so that politicians may cross”.

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