Building global ties 2 cities at a time
Updated: 2014-03-27 13:01
By Chen Weihua in Washington (China Daily USA)
Celebrating 35 years of diplomatic ties
Mary Kane, president and CEO of Sister Cities International, has lately seen many US cities, including many small cities, looking to establish relationship with China.
"Because China is a world power, developing this relationship on the ground is not only good for the United States and our future, but also the future of our children," said the chief of the non-profit organization founded by US President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956.
About 160 of Sister Cities International member cities in the US have sistership ties with Chinese counterparts. Kane described their relationship as very strong.
She said people understand that trade and diplomacy don't just happen at the federal level, they can start at the grassroots level and it's beneficial for communities to develop those ties.
As former Secretary of State for Maryland and chair of Governor's subcabinet for international affairs, Kane has watched the state developing a very strong relationship with China's Anhui province, citing the cultural and medical exchanges, the economic development opportunities and the launch of a Confucius Institute at the University of Maryland as a result of the relationship.
Kane believes that when people get together and start to talk about their shared values, love for their countries, love for their families and their children, it brings down a lot of misconception that may have existed.
"I think that's why these Chinese and US sister cities relationship becomes extremely popular.
Sister Cities International has teamed up with the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries to hold the first US-China Sister Cities Conference on March 26-28 in the US. Such meetings were only held in China before.
The conference this year coincides with the 35th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between China and the US and also the 35th anniversary of the first China-US sister cities, between Nanjing in East China's Jiangsu province and St Louis of Missouri.
"We want to celebrate that. We want to show that this has been a long-term ongoing relationship. This isn't something that just happened," said Kane.
The conference has drawn huge support with its honorary host committee comprising of some big names such as former Secretary of State General Colin Powell, many governors, mayors, Senators and Congressmen.
Kane was surprised to see the enthusiasm displayed by Chinese and US sister cities when they joined hands to compete for the awards at this week's conference. A total of 81 applications were received for the 30 awards.
"So you know how strong their relationships are if they can actually sit down and write applications for these awards together," she said.
An award ceremony will be held Thursday evening at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington. For one, the sistership tie between the state of Iowa and Hebei province has won them the longest relationship award.
"To think the President of China wants to go to Iowa was really interesting for a lot of people. But it shows you the power of the sister state and sister city relationship, the effect it can have on people," Kane, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping, who paid a historic trip to Iowa in 2012 as China's vice-president, following his first trip there in 1985 as a local county leader in Hebei province.
(China Daily USA 03/27/2014 page8)