Global Times: China-US sister cities: Building ‘bridges of friendship’

BEIJING, Nov. 6, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday sent a message to the fifth China-US Sister Cities Conference, saying the close cooperation between sister provinces/states and sister cities has been fruitful over the past four decades.   

The foundation of China-US relations lies in the people and the source of strength lies in the friendship between people, Xi said in his message to the conference held in Suzhou in East China’s Jiangsu Province. The “Build Green Cities for the People” conference was co-hosted by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the Jiangsu provincial government.

In the era of globalization, informatization, and urbanization, cities have become centers for cultural exchanges and innovation. International sister city initiatives, aimed at promoting cultural exchanges, are increasingly valued and encouraged by governments around the world. The relationship between nations thrives on the affinity between the people of those nations, which in turn is built on mutual understanding and communication.

President Xi has repeatedly emphasized the importance of strengthening people-to-people bonds and cultural exchanges between China and the US.

Xi stressed that the China-US Sister Cities Conference is an important mechanism for sub-national exchanges that has played a positive role in promoting development and cooperation between sister cities. He called on participants of the conference to continue to serve as a bridge for sub-national exchanges, enabling provinces/states and cities to play a greater role in promoting the sound and steady development of bilateral relations and improving the well-being of the peoples of the two countries.

Today, sister provinces/states and sister cities are important platforms for deepening friendship and achieving win-win cooperation. They are also an important component of bilateral relations. Since the first pair between China and the US was set in 1979, 284 pairs have been formed so far.

Local exchanges and interactions between sister provinces/states and sister cities have expanded the foundation for cooperation between the two countries and have become important platforms for people-to-people exchanges and long-term partnerships in business and cultural exchanges. Under the framework of China-US sister cities, through exchanges in the field of education, science, language, and art by means of sister city conferences, annual celebrations, administrative exchanges, and establishment of offices, numerous “bridges of friendship” have been built across national boundaries, regions, races and ages.

As an extension and supplement to official interactions between the two countries, China-US sister city exchanges have added substantial content to the cultural exchanges between the two countries. For example, since East China’s Xiamen and Miami signed an Agreement on Establishing Friendly Exchange Relations, the two sides have conducted extensive exchanges and cooperation in cultural exchange fields such as tourism, education, and scientific research. Serving as a link for cultural exchanges between the two cities, Xiamen University and the University of Miami have engaged in in-depth exchanges in various disciplines in recent years, offering joint courses and holding a series of academic seminars and exchange activities for international students. The Tianjin Conservatory of Music and the Juilliard School in New York have carried out high-level artistic collaborations and strengthened cooperation in arts education, adding new platforms for China-US cultural exchanges.

Sister provinces/states and sister cities interactions between China and the US have long been an essential bridge promoting the development of relationships between the two countries. The core of these exchanges is people-to-people interactions. Actively carrying out sister city initiatives positively shapes the perceptions of officials, enterprises and private individuals involved in these activities. These exchanges help enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries. In a subtle and profound way, they increase a sense of closeness and trust among people, solidifying the social and popular foundation for the stability and development of China-US relations.

To some extent, these sister city exchanges serve as a “barometer” of China-US relations. In recent years, under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the growth rate and frequency of interactions among China-US sister cities have declined. However, these sister cities still resiliently maintain interactions and cooperation, conducting a series of online cultural exchange activities. For example, Jingdezhen in East China’s Jiangxi Province and Door county in Wisconsin held a video conference on tourism development; Lijiang, a city in Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, joined hands with Roanoke, Virginia to conduct an online exchange activity themed “University Life During the Pandemic” in which university students from both cities held a cordial conversation and shared their understanding of each other’s cultures.

Local exchanges and cooperation are undoubtedly a significant force and social foundation for the development of China-US relations. When China-US relations encounter difficulties, local exchanges facilitated by sister cities become even more precious and of vital importance.

As Xi stated in his message to the fifth China-US Sister Cities Conference, sister provinces/states and sister cities have engaged in close, productive cooperation over the past four decades, bringing tangible benefits to the two peoples.

Looking forward, sister provinces/states and sister cities can play a unique role, injecting new energy into the stability and development of China-US relations.

SOURCE Global Times

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