Sister Cities Chicago celebrates 30th anniversary with China


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Deputy Mayor of the City of Chicago Steve Koch talks about China’s sister city relationship with Chicago.

By Metro Reporter

Business leaders, government officials and citizen diplomats celebrated a 30th anniversary with Chicago’s Sister Cities Shanghai and Shenyang with a welcome reception at The Field Museum’s recently installed Cyrus Tang Hall of China permanent exhibition Oct. 22 and 23.

Sister Cities International, a nonprofit organization, works to unite countries internationally through culture, education and business partnerships. SCI has 522 participating U.S. cities connected with different countries, but China is the only country with two sister city relationships tied to one American city. The anniversary reception aimed to build stronger ties with China economically and culturally, said Jeff Malehorn, president and CEO of World Business Chicago at the event.

“Obviously, the Chinese population that has chosen to settle in Chicago is a huge part of not only our cultural heritage, but also our future,” said Steve Koch, deputy mayor of the City of Chicago.

SCI was formed in 1956 when President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s White House summit on citizen diplomacy emphasized the importance of a network for peace and prosperity to be attained through international relationships. Eisenhower hoped citizens from cities worldwide could have the opportunity to learn about each other, celebrate their similarities, appreciate their differences and build lasting partnerships that could help to ensure a future of sustained peace, according to the President and CEO of SCI Mary Kane’s address at the reception. Since its creation, SCI has celebrated years of renewing and strengthening important global relationships, such as the Shanghai and Shenyang partnership that started in 1985.

“We will innovate and explore ways municipalities and communities can work together to build these lasting relationships based on cultural exchanges, student exchanges and economic development,” Kane said in her address.

Xie Yuan, vice president of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, said in his speech at the reception that no one thought in 1979 when China and the U.S. formed diplomatic relations, that more than 10,000 travelers would fly across the Pacific Ocean between the two countries to celebrate together.

“We sincerely hope that this China and U.S. Sister Cities get together can be a potential milestone in the history of the friendly relationship between our two countries. We also hope the sister city relationship between China and the U.S. will [thrive],”Yuan said in his speech .

Anastasia Dellaccio, director of Marketing and Communications for SCI spoke of the appreciation China has for the U.S. She said more than 100 people flew in from China for this reception and conference, and this was important because the participants had been anticipating the event for a long time, and some would be meeting each other in person for the first time. The conference was held in Chicago, Dellaccio said, but only a small percentage of participants are from the city since most travel from across the country.

“The partnerships we see across the U.S.—some of them do economic based stuff, some of them do innovation work, working with other cities around the world to increase new innovation to solve some our world’s biggest problems,” Dellaccio said. “Some of them just do the cultural aspect like student, art or music exchanges. It’s totally up to them and that’s what makes it so special. Even though there [are] so many different ways that these people connect, the one similarity is that they’re willing to get to know the other side.”