Mayors talk challenges, opportunities

Updated: 2013-05-15 11:07

By Wang Ju in Los Angeles (China Daily)

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Dozens of mayors from China and the United States gathered in Los Angeles to discuss trade between their countries as well as sustainability and other common challenges facing the cities they lead.

A memorandum signed at the seventh Sino-US Mayors Summit said attendees "focused on the exchange of ideas on major issues of trade and investment opportunities in the United States and China, ways to streamline market access in both nations, and strategies to bring about increased urban sustainability and innovation".

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said that although the two countries are separated by geography, "we're connected by common challenges and opportunities". He encouraged his fellow city chief executives to find mutually beneficial opportunities in trade.

"Cities are very similar around the world. Residents have common goals, common aspirations, common desires and need common services," said Scott Smith, the mayor of Mesa, Arizona, and vice-president of the US Conference of Mayors, which co-sponsored the summit with the Chinese Association of Mayors.

"I appreciate the opportunity to sit down and discuss our city work and city values with our fellow mayors from China," Smith said.

Zhang Xiaochong, deputy secretary general of the China Center for International Economic Exchanges, said the Beijing think tank has been working with organizations such as the United States Chamber of Commerce, a pro-business lobbying group in Washington, to develop strategies to promote two-way trade.

Qiu Shaofang, the Chinese consul general in Los Angeles, cited President Xi Jinping's emphasis on local, people-to-people communication and interaction as the basis for solid China-US relations.

The two countries have 176 sister-city relationships and 38 pairs of sister provinces and states.

Qiu said the two countries have much room for cooperation. China needs cutting-edge US technologies, he said, while American companies need the Chinese market as a sales destination and a source of investment in the US.

Sustainability was mentioned by mayors from both countries. Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun, who is president of the Chinese Association of Mayors, said China has more than 650 cities, the result of an urbanization rate that has soared to over 50 percent today from less than 20 percent in 1978. Of China's 1.3 billion people, 700 million live in cities, stressing systems that require innovative remedies in design, planning and technology.

According to Qiu, several of the Chinese mayors at Tuesday's summit brought with them ideas for possible cooperation with their American counterparts.

Although Los Angeles remains one of the most polluted cities in the US, its air quality has improved somewhat under California's strict emission-control regulations. Wang and Villaraigosa discussed at a breakfast meeting how Beijing could learn from Los Angeles' experience in dealing with pollution. The Beijing mayor said he plans to address the problem by working with heads of local administrations surrounding the Chinese capital.

In addition to Beijing, the mayors of four other Chinese cities - Urumqi, Guiyang, Qiqihar and Taicang - said they intend to pursue dialogue with one US city government each, with the goal of developing common standards for sustainability and innovation.

Guo Ziwei contributed to the story.