Are you familiar with the Chinese term “yŏuhăo chéngshì”? Perhaps Sister Cities or Twin Towns? When two cities from different countries form a relationship, it is formally recognised as such after both head officials of the cities meet and a ceremony is held. Americans and Australasians mainly use the term Sister Cities that which describes the official recognition and relationship between two cities of different countries. Britain is accustomed to using the term Twin Towns, while China will refer to such a relationship as Friendship Cities (友好城市).
Yŏuhăo Chéngshì is not to be confused with the international term Friendship City that which is used by all nations in the initial phase of developing a relationship. At this stage the relationship is considered less formal. Once the relationship has strengthened and both can confirm a desire for a longer term relationship they will transition to sisterly status. The term sister city was first used by America, however, in China, it was the great Zhou Enlai who said that formal city relationships must be referred to as friendship cities (see previous article). The meaning in Chinese is exactly the same as the English term sister cities. Furthermore, these days, the phrase “City Diplomacy” is gaining in popularity, following a 2014 House of Lords debate in the UK which acknowledged the evolution of Town Twinning into City Diplomacy.
The formal connecting of two cities ensures a long-term partnership that assists the cities in the development of everything from culture to commerce. When deciding on a prospective sister city, ancestral connections are considered along with expatriate communities, historical connections, trade relations, geographical location plus educational and technological advances, etc. When selected, a sister city bond will be formerly recognised by the two cities highest elected officials. At the time of writing, Nanjing has a total of 20 official Sister Cities and 61 Friendship & Cooperation Cities.
Nagoya, Japan (1978)
The very first city to formally merge relationships with Nanjing and Jiangsu province was Japan’s fourth largest city, Nagoya. The Japan-China relation was normalised in 1972 with the signing of the Peace and Friendship Treaty and the relationship was formally given sister status in 1978.
Nanjing Square was later constructed in downtown Nagoya’s central park. Two stone pillars from China’s Six Dynasties were sent by Nanjing city as a gift which now stand in the park as representation of the friendship between the two cities.
In February, 2012, Takashi Kawamura, the then mayor of Nagoya made inappropriate remarks regarding the Nanjing Massacre which seriously affected relations between the two cities and countries. Consequently, on the 21 February, Nanjing called a suspension of official exchanges with the Nagoya municipal government. However, The Nanjinger is assured that as of 2019 the relationship is in favour once more.
St Louis, USA (1979)
As the first American metropolis to be tied to a Chinese city, St. Louis, Missouri, joined ranks with Nanjing in 1979. Mayor of St. Louis, James Conway, visited Nanjing and met the Nanjing leader at the time, Chu Jiang, in order to sign the agreement that was witnessed by 5,000 locals.
Nine of the ten Fortune 500 companies based in Missouri are located within the St. Louis metropolitan area, while the city has also become known for its growing medical, pharmaceutical and research presence. St. Louis has two professional sports teams; the St. Louis Cardinals of Major League Baseball and the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League.
Conway has said the partnership was “perfect” due to the fact that both cities are on major rivers where agriculture was one of the main industries. 2 November, 2019, marks the 40th anniversary of the St Louis-Nanjing Sister City Friendship. With baseball as the theme, two statues of baseball gloves are to be enacted in each city in commemoration.
See the additional article on 40 years of sisterhood, by clicking here.
Florence, Italy (1980)
As the capital of Tuscany, the city of Florence has a turbulent political history; from 1865 to 1871, the city was the capital of the recently-established Kingdom of Italy. Florence attracts millions of tourists each year, and the Historic Centre of Florence was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art plus architecture and monuments. Its historical past is similar to Nanjing’s, as well as its UNESCO status.
Eindhoven, Netherlands (1985)
In 2014, Eindhoven had a population of 419,045 making it the fifth-largest city in the Netherlands. Like Nanjing, the city has been busy internationalising, said to be the influence of its university. Philips and other companies have also helped to create a more mixed population over the last few decades. Due to its high-tech environment, Eindhoven is at the heart of several initiatives to develop this important part of the economy. Nanjing’s sister city relationship with Eindhoven was set up with the assistance of the Philips Group.
Leipzig, Germany (1988)
After German Reunification, Leipzig’s economy developed rapidly, becoming one of the most economically active cities in Germany. The five economic clusters in Leipzig are automotive (and its supply chain), healthcare and biotech, energy and environment, media and creative logistics. Leipzig is also home to a Confucius Institute that promotes studies of Mandarin.
Mexicali, Mexico (1991)
Mexicali boasts two international airports, together with highways, railways and three famous institutions of higher learning. A host of foreign invested businesses located in Mexicali include Coco Cola, Nestle, Pepsi, Samsung and Sony.
During the Spring Festival of 1995, the “Friendship Pavilion”, designed by Nanjing architects and built by Mexicali workers, was officially completed. The pavilion is located in the Friendship Square of Mexicali, and it displays the architectural style typical of gardens in southern China. On the rooftop and floor of the pavilion are painted the city flowers of Nanjing and Mexicali; the plum blossom and cotton.
Limassol, Cyprus (1992)
Located on the southern coast of Cyprus is Limassol, the second largest urban area in the country, with a metropolitan population of 160,000. The Port of Limassol is one of the busiest in the Mediterranean transit and the largest in Cyprus. It has also become one of the most important tourism, trade and service-providing centres in the area. Limassol is renowned for its extensive cultural traditions and is home to the Cyprus University of Technology. A wide spectrum of museums and archaeological sites are also to be found in Limassol.
Daejeon, South Korea (1994)
Daedeok Innopolis is home to a semiconductor production park, a bio chemical production park, new materials production park and produces 150 kinds of high-tech products. Therefore, Daedeok is known as the “Silicon Valley” of South Korea. It is also located in Daejeon.
In 1994, Nanjing and Daejeon established a sister-city relationship. Since then, extensive exchanges and cooperation in science and technology, culture, sports, education and other areas have been promoted. In addition, mutual visits on the topics of science and technology, education, culture and sports are carried out at regular intervals every year, greatly promoting exchange and understanding between both sides.
In 2005, the Daejeon Municipal Government opened an office in Nanjing in order to further deepen and strengthen the relationship between Nanjing and Daejeon. Situated in the Nanjing Literature Association, the office has become an important window for Daejeon in Nanjing.
London, Canada (1997)
In September 2017, a Nanjing delegation led by the Vice Chairman of the People’s Congress, Lin Keqin, paid a visit to London and attended celebrations which marked the 20th anniversary of friendly ties between the two cities. Together with the delegation was the renowned Nanjing Little Red Flower Art Troupe. In April and October of the same year, the then Director General of the Urban Development Bureau of London visited Nanjing and dropped in at a host of local businesses.
The Bureau of Education of London has collaborated with Jinling High School in the launching of a project named Direct Express Train to Studying at Canada. Initiated in 2015, the project is mainly targeted at high school students in Nanjing who intend to apply for public high schools in London and other Canadian schools.
Perth, Australia (1998)
Perth is a strong corporate power, being home to approximately 700 Australian Stock Exchange listed companies. There are also currently more than 300 international corporations with offices in Perth that service the oil and gas sector, including BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto, Schlumberger and Apache Energy.
Perth’s geographical position is a key advantage for global businesses, situated in the same time zone as 60 percent of the world’s population (including China) and key international markets, such as Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Kuala Lumpur. For firms with significant interests in South-East Asian markets, Perth offers a distinct advantage over other Australian cities.
Bloemfontein, South Africa (1999)
Nanjing began communications with Bloemfontein in 1998, after which, in January, 1999, Yang Zhi, Member of Standing Committee and Secretary General of Nanjing CPC Committee, led a delegation to Bloemfontein to sign a memorandum of friendship and exchange with the Municipality. In March, 2000, with the approval of the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Nanjing and Bloemfontein formally concluded the Friendship City relationship. Bloemfontein is one of the three capital cities with judicial function in South Africa and is Nanjing’s first sister in Africa.
Barranquill, Columbia (2001)
Secretary General, Yang Zhi, of Nanjing, led a friendly working group visit to Barranquilla City, Colombia, in 2000 and signed a memorandum of friendship exchange with then Colombian Vice President, Gustavo Bell.
Since then, regular visits between the two cities take place every year to create more opportunities and to exchange views on their respective economies. Culture, education and other cooperative aspects are the focus of the relationship.
Malacca, Malaysia (2008)
On October 31, 2008, the city and Malacca became sister cities with Nanjing. Mayor, Jiang Hongkun, and Malacca Mayor, Jie Tan, signed a sister city agreement at the 30th anniversary of the provincial friendship city. In 2016, the Nanjing Government presented a pair of 1.5-metre tall stone lions to Malacca. These two cities are rich in history and they believe more cultural communication will continuously go on between the two.
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei (2011)
The history of exchange between Nanjing and Brunei is immense, while the development of the two countries’ friendship has grown stronger and stronger. In 1408, the King of Brunei unfortunately died in China on account of illness. He left his will before his death, which read, “The body is to be buried in China”. Ming Chengzu buried him in Nanjing with Wang Li and wrote an inscription, helping lay the foundation of communication between the two cities.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1991, due to the presence of the King of Brunei’s tomb, the city of Nanjing has frequent exchanges with Brunei. Almost every year, Brunei guests come to visit the tomb of the King, with the friendship between the two cities helping to boost tourism, culture and the economy at large.
Windhoek, Namibia (2015)
Close ties date back to when the region of Khomas in Namibia and China’s Jiangsu Province signed a memorandum of cooperation in 2013, covering tourism, culture, science and technology, as well as economy and trade. The Mayor of Windhoek expressed his hope that Nanjing would provide scholarships in science and technology to the citizens of Windhoek.
Ambassador of China to Namibia at the time, Xin Shunkang, said that there should be established channels of communication between the two cities to expand the scope of cooperation to sports, food processing and real estate. Nanjing has also donated 100 sets of solar equipment to Windhoek.
Mogilev, Belarus (2016)
Nanjing and the Belarusian city of Mogilev established friendly and cooperative city relations in 2014, becoming friendship cities in 2016. In September of that year, the mayors of both cities signed an agreement on establishing a Chinese medicine centre in Mogilev. Since then, the Municipal Foreign Affairs Office, the Municipal Health Planning Commission and the Municipal Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine have jointly contributed to the Chinese Medicine Centre project.
Mayor Zumarev, who had attended the World Historical and Cultural City Expo that takes place in Nanjing, said, “Chinese medicine is amazing! When I was in Nanjing, I suffered from lumbar pain, and Chinese medicine made it better. So I can fly back to Mogilev on a long-haul flight.” He said that the establishment of the TCM Centre will not only promote the healthy development of Mogilev, but also enhance the friendship and cooperation between the two cities.
Bien Hoa, Vietnam (2018)
In May 2018, Nanjing Mayor, Lan Shaomin, met with representatives of Bien Hoa City and signed the “Friendly City Agreement”.
“Nanjing has a great Ming City Wall, and we also have a profound wall culture”, Fan Yingyong, Chairman of the People’s Committee of Bien Hoa, said. Ever since 2014, Bien Hoa has been restoring the original architectural elements within its ancient city walls.
During his visit to Nanjing, Fan studied the practices of Nanjing and other historical and cultural cities in the preserving of ancient structures, drawing on her experience in protecting the city wall.
Concepción, Chile (2018)
On 7 December, Hugo Cautivo Baltierra, President of the Regional Conference of Bío Bío, Chile, and Alvaro Ortiz Villa, Mayor of Concepción, met with Vice Chairman of the CPPCC, Xu Jinwan, and exchanged views on cooperation in the fields of education, medical treatment and humanities. After the meeting, the two went on to sign the memorandum of friendship and cooperation between Nanjing and Concepción.
Concepción is the capital of the Chilean Bio Bio region, located in the Zona Centro Sur, or Central South Zone of the South American country, some 500 kilometres from the nation’s capital, Santiago. The city is the second largest city in Chile and one of the country’s industrial and commercial centres.
Shiraz, Iran (2018)
Nanjing’s official representative, the city mayor, Lan Shaomin, said at the signing of the Sister City agreement, “Shiraz and Nanjing are two historical cities in their countries, namely Iran and China. They have been the capital cities. It shows their major stance and potentials”. Including Nanjing and Chongqing, Shiraz now has a total of six sister city relationships.
Shiraz and Nanjing will begin mutual cooperation in the academic, cultural and tourism fields. The two cities have similar gardens, highly accredited universities, and potential for tourist attractions and tourism development. Through signing this agreement, the way is paved for the exchange of knowledge, experience and skills exchange between the two cities, according to the Shiraz Municipality.
Semarang, Indonesia (2018)
Situated on the northern coast of the island of Java, Indonesia is Semarang, a city with profound relations to China, dating back to the 15th century. In Semarang, Chinese footprints everywhere; it is even said that the name Semarang came from the Chinese sailing hero Zheng He. With a population of approximately 1.8 million, Semarang City stretches 5 kilometres along the coast, is the third port in Indonesia, after Surabaya and Jakarta.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two cities was signed by the Semarang Mayor, Hendrar Prihadi, and Mayor of Nanjing, Lan Shaomin, in October, 2018. The partnership is focused around education and scholarship schemes plus tourism. Moreover, Semarang is located along the maritime section of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
According to incomplete statistics, over the past 40 years, Nanjing has sent more than 2,000 professional groups to her sister cities and has received more than 7,000 visits. Such exchanges have covered industry, agriculture, science and technology, education, culture, health, sports and news. A wide range of fields, such as finance, environmental protection, logistics, tourism and talent training have effectively promoted the internationalisation process of Nanjing. Going forward, the breadth and depth of exchanges and cooperation between the cities will further expand, while the 2018 to 2020 goal is to secure 3-4 new friendship cities each year.