Sister Cities develops ties with China

Apr. 27, 2013 @ 08:43 AM

Sister Cities of Durham is broadening our city’s connections to the global community by welcoming partnerships with two cities in China.  On April 17, Sister Cities of Durham signed a “Friendship City” partnership with the City of Kunshan, Jiangsu Province, China. 

Kunshan is west of Shangai in the Yantze River delta and is known as the “father of all opera” in China. Kunshan has passed through several phases of economic change:  agriculture, textiles, light manufacturing, computer technology and now into the 21st century with new economic ventures and building programs. 

The first China city partner was the City of Zhuzhou, in Hunan Province, China.   Zhuzhou is in the Hunan Province, which has the Yantze River as its northern border.  Zhuzhou is part of Triangle area similar to Durham and our Triangle.  This means Sister Cities has added two Chinese cities to our family of international cities to go with the four cities we have partnered with for many years 

With the assistance of Duke University, Sister Cities communicated with the Kunshan Office of Foreign Affairs about their interest in participating in the Sister Cities program.   Kunshan notified us that a delegation of Kunshan government officials, led by their mayor, would be visiting Durham April 17.  As a result, it was agreed that Mayor Bill Bell of Durham and Mayor Jun Lu of Kunshan would sign the partnership during this visit. 

At the signing ceremony, words of welcome to Kunshan were presented by Brady Surles, president of Sister Cities of Durham; Mayor  Bell; Lian Xie, president of the Carolina China Council; and Michael Schoenfeld, Duke vice president for public affairs and government relations. 

Mayor Lu expressed his appreciation for the “Friendship City” partnership, stating that he anticipated  lots of programs of cooperation between the two cities in culture, education, economic trade, science and technology and tourism. 

The first project with the Zhuzhou partnership was the recent visit of a group of 27 elementary school children (ages 9 – 11) from Zhuzhou for five days as they came to visit three schools in Durham.  The children, with six educational officials and parents from Zhuzhou,  participated in classroom activities with Club Boulevard Humanities Magnet Elementary School,  Durham Academy and Holt Elementary Language Academy.  The students worked on Earth Day projects, English skills and multi-cultural projects.  

A typical statement from the Zhuzhou students was “this is so much fun, and I am glad I came.”  Twenty families hosted the students in their homes, and they enjoyed having the Chinese students participate fully in their family activities.  Host families commented that this was very meaningful to their own children.  The farewell activity was a multi-cultural festival at Club Boulevard with all the host families enjoying presentations about projects they worked on for the week and presentations by Zhuzhou students who played traditional Chinese instruments and sang songs in English for the hosting students at all three schools.  

Mark Goodwillie, co-chair of the Zhuzhou City Committee, said “this has been an excellent educational experience for both the Chinese students and our Durham students”.  Durham students were heard to say that this was an exciting time and they now want to go to China to see their new friends.