Chicago, China celebrate 30 years of sisterhood

Chicago's sisiter cities aslo include Paris, France, Amman, Jordan, Birmingham, United Kingdom, Delhi, India and Belgrade Serbia to name a few more. The purpose of Chicago's partnerships with these cities is to promote Chicago as a global city, according to the Chicago Sister Cities website. The group emphasizes international partnerships, networks and citizen-to-citizen connections. (Katie Tomosiunas / The DePaulia)
Chicago’s sister cities also include Paris, France, Amman, Jordan, Birmingham, United Kingdom, Delhi, India and Belgrade Serbia to name a few more. The purpose of Chicago’s partnerships with these cities is to promote Chicago as a global city, according to the Chicago Sister Cities website. The group emphasizes international partnerships, networks and citizen-to-citizen connections. (Katie Tomosiunas / The DePaulia)

This month, more than 100 delegates and mayors from two of the world’s superpowers — China and the U.S. — met in Chicago Oct. 22-23 for a historic convening at the Hilton Chicago for the 2015 U.S.-China Sister Cities Conference.

This is the second time this conference has ever taken place. However, it is in commemoration of the long-lasting relationship between Chicago and its sister cities Shanghai and Shenyang, a relationship that celebrated its 30-year history through events spanning the two days.

Relations between the U.S. and China have been complicated over the last few months. During the summer, the U.S. accused China of using cyberattacks to gain information on American companies, which the country denied. President Obama and President Xi Jinping formed a pact in September against the use of such attacks, but it is unclear how this pact will be enforced in the U.S. or in China.

In Chicago, relations to China are different than the ones seen on the national level.

The leaders in attendance discussed how this strong relationship has been a catalyst for economic growth, as well as how it has created the ability to share cultural and educational experiences to gain an understanding of one another.

Chinese and American corporate executives discussed how to successfully conduct business between China in investment and trade. Also in attendance were mayors from many American cities, including Miami, San Diego, Washington D.C., and Chicago.

The last conference was held in Washington D.C., where Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans by the Wanda Group of China to build an 89-story residential and hotel tower along the Chicago River, which would surpass the Aon Center to become the third tallest skyscraper in the skyline. Emanuel applauded the Wanda group for choosing an all Chicago team for the project, calling it a “great building.”

Mary Kane, president and CEO of Chicago Sister Cities International, speaks at the Chicago sister cities event Friday. The gathering brought together mayors of American cities and Chinese leaders to celebrate 30 years of partnership and growth. (Muhammed Ahmed / The DePaulia)
Mary Kane, president and CEO of Chicago Sister Cities International, speaks at the Chicago sister cities event Friday. The gathering brought together mayors of American cities and Chinese leaders to celebrate 30 years of partnership and growth. (Muhammed Ahmed / The DePaulia)

World Business Chicago President Jeff Malehorn said Chicago has sister city relationships with 28 cities around the world, but China is the sole country with two cities in partnership with the city.

If this convening showed anything, it is that U.S.-China relations in business and education are stronger than ever. Despite any differences they may have politically. Wenjian Fang, the executive vice president of Bank of China’s U.S. operations, spoke about the opportunity of Chinese companies in financial meccas such as Chicago.

“(The Bank of China) came here three years ago and in only three years we have grown from zero to a bank with assets close to $3 billion US dollars,” Fang said.

Many Chinese companies have expanded to the United States in recent years.

Mary Kane, President and CEO of Sister Cities International talked about the history of the organization since its inception by President Dwight Eisenhower, and the shared mission of the countries and cities involved to “learn more about each other, celebrate their similarities, appreciate their differences, and build lasting partnerships that ensure a future of sustained peace,” Kane said.

Kane also spoke about the recent visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping to Tacoma, Washington, where well-off Chinese have started to send their children to high school. The rise of international students in American colleges and universities is noteworthy. The majority of the students from abroad are from Asian countries, with China being the highest supplier.

Anastasia Dellaccio, director of marketing and communications for Sister Cities International, partly organized the meeting of the sister cities. Sister Cities International plans to continue their relationship with China. Shenyang doctors will meet with fellows from the University of Chicago Medical Center, and doctors from Shanghai will also address Chicago in August.

“Nothing ever substitutes what it means to see people face to face. Our goal is to bring people together in a forum that promotes innovation and growth,” Dellaccio said.

The push for innovation and growth, as well as connections between Chinese citizens and residents of Chicago, that Dellaccio and other speakers talked about can already be seen in the city. Chicago welcomes these citizens. These cultural exchanges have helped grow businesses in Chicago, as well as given students opportunities to see the world and interact with those who come from different backgrounds and origins than themselves, which seems to fit the main goal of Chicago Sister Cities International. These partnerships will, hopefully, have positive effects on the markets of Chicago and its sister cities to make the next 30 years even more lucrative ecoomically and culturally.

The 2016 conference returns to Washington D.C. next July, where the theme will be the celebration of “60 years of peace through people.” The initiative has come a long way since the days of President Eisenhower, and it promises to further strengthen the relationships of the countries using the diplomatic sister city approach.