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Trans-Pacific-City, State bonds celebrated

Updated: 2014-03-28 13:18
By Chen Weihua in Washington ( China Daily USA)

Vincent Gray, the mayor of Washington DC, seemed more excited than anyone delivering a luncheon keynote speech at the US-China Sister Cities Conference on Thursday. And that was not entirely because the 30-year-old sister city tie between his city and Chinese capital Beijing won an award for economic and trade exchange at the meeting.

Gray said that Air China agreed to start a direct non-stop air route from Beijing to Washington's Dulles International Airport beginning on June 10.

The announcement drew warm applause from the several hundred in the audience. "That will have a phenomenal impact and we are very excited about this opportunity," he said.

Noting the negative impact on the local economy by federal sequestration, Gray said Washington DC is looking for ways to grow its economy in order to better control itself. And he believes the direct flight will help boost tourism.

Already the number of people travelling between Beijing and Washington DC had risen from 85,500 in 2010 to 116,000 by the third quarter of 2013. "But imagine what is going to be now, with the direct flight from Beijing into Dulles International. I don't know, double, triple, who knows what the number will be?" he said.

Gray was not the only one excited by the news. Virginia Secretary of Commerce and Trade Maurice Jones said Virginia welcomed more than 22,000 visitors from China last year, a 69 percent increase over previous year. "China is also Virginia's top emerging tourism market and this announcement today is only going to make that grow exponentially," Jones said.

He touted the long-standing and mutually beneficial relationship between Virginia and China. China is the largest customer of Virginia's agriculture and forestry products and one of the top 15 global investors in Virginia.

Gray also gave a long list of achievements born out of the sister-city tie with Beijing, such as education and business exchanges. Washington DC has already opened an office in Shanghai and is opening one Beijing.

"It's a fruitful and encouraging relationship," he said.

Mary Kane, president and CEO of Sister Cities International, read a congratulatory letter from President Barack Obama to the conference. Sister Cities International organized the conference in collaboration with the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries.

"The United States and China are deeply interested in each other's success. And the United States firmly believes the emergence of a stable, peaceful and prosperous China is not just good for the Chinese people, but also for America and the world," Kane quoted Obama as saying.

Praising the good work of organizations like the Sister Cities International in promoting people-to-people exchanges, Obama said their efforts remind people of the power of citizen diplomacy in solving problems and creating a bright future.

Xie Yuan, vice-chairman of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, described the first sister cities conference sponsored by both sides as a milestone. The meeting was listed in the outcome document of the 5th Strategic and Economic Dialogue held in Washington DC last July.

"The sister city relationship will play a unique role in building the new type of major country relationship," Xie said, referring to a consensus reached by Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Obama last June in Sunnylands, California.

The some 300 participants in the whole day meeting at the Ronald Reagan Building engaged in deep discussions on Thursday in a wide range of seminars, such as community engagement programs, energy and sustainable development programs, protocols of doing business in China and the US and how to attract business to your city.

Some 34 pairs of sister cities and sister states and provinces and four individuals were honored during an award gala Thursday evening.

Clare Petrich, president of the Port of Tacoma Commission, described Tacoma's relationship with Fuzhou, Fujian province, as wonderful. The two sister cities won an economic and trade exchange award last night.

"I love Fuzhou. We had a wonderful time there. When I was there, I brought a dragon boat team, to compete in the dragon boat race," said Petrich, recalling her trip about seven years ago.

Trans-Pacific-City, State bonds celebrated

Cynthia Brock-Smith (second from right), secretary of Washington DC, and Karima Woods (second from left), international business manager in the city government, receive Sister City Award in the category of Economic & Trade for the city's effort in developing comprehensive business collaboration with its sister city Beijing at the 2014 US-China Sister Cities Conference in Washington on Thursday. Xie Yuan (left), vice president of Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, and Thomas Lisk, chairman of Sister Cities International, conferred the award. Xing Xudong / China Daily

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