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A big tourist draw is the Dujiangyan water conservation project, the oldest dam-free diversion and irrigation system in the world still in operation. Photos provided to China Daily
Partnerships that help bring the opening-up further inland
Discussions of China's reform and opening-up in the past three decades often center on coastal cities that have flourished due to their convenient overseas links.
Few mention the vast inland areas of western China, yet the city of Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, has been a pioneer in opening up to the outside world.
Since it first established sister city relations with Montpellier in France and Ljubljana in Slovenia in 1981, Chengdu now has 18 such partnerships with cities across the world. It has also built up formal friendly relations with another 36 foreign cities.
Sister city links and cooperation are convenient and efficient ways for the inland city to become international, said Ge Honglin, the mayor of Chengdu, during an interview.
The effort has brought recognition to Chengdu, including the top honor for sister city development in China in 2010.
The effort also helped Chengdu earn the right to host the third China International Friendship City Conference in September.
During the conference the city will sign agreements with Perth in Australia and Maastricht in Holland, adding new members to its list of sister cities.
According to Qiu Haiming, director of the Foreign Affairs Office at the Chengdu municipal government, developing twin city ties not only enhances friendship but also promotes economic and social development.
With the help of Phoenix, its first sister city in the US, Chengdu succeeded in persuading Intel to locate its production facility in Chengdu in 2002.
It has undertaken some 480 foreign exchange and cooperation programs with the help of its sister cities.
The scope of cooperation with sister cities extends to nearly every aspect of life, including trade and economic issues, education, cultural exchanges, city development and technology.
After finding friends around the world for 30 years, Chengdu has become more mature, said Qui.
And instead of focusing on the number of sister cities, the city stresses quality, he added.
Chengdu prefers cities whose industries are complementary, as well as those from which it can learn.
Sheffield, the first in the United Kingdom to establish a sister city relationship with Chengdu, is renowned as a "green" city.
In 2011, the two cities agreed to build the "Town of Sheffield" in Chengdu, working together on sustainable development, low-carbon technology and the concept of building a garden city.
The capital of Sichuan now has more than 20 long-term cooperation programs with major partners Montpellier, Ljubljana, Bonn, Sheffield and Phoenix.
While the links are used to create a window for Chengdu to connect with foreign cities, it is now expanding the opening to become a "highland" or "base" for international ties, said Qiu.
The city gathered all its sister cities together last year for Chengdu International Sister City Week, a forum that enabled representatives to meet with one another and find ways for multilateral cooperation.
It also helped the city's efforts to innovate and create a tourism alliance of international sister cities.
The municipal government has long valued sister city relations, but in recent years realized that more entrepreneurs, social organizations and citizens should also be involved.
To aid the effort, it recently created a comprehensive information sharing system for individuals and institutions to easily access data available on sister city resources.
Last January the Beethoven Symphony from sister city Bonn, Germany came to Chengdu to offer a musical extravaganza.
In return, Chengdu brought its folk performances to Bonn the following month.
(China Daily 09/13/2012 page15)