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Print Edition> World
UPDATED: May 6, 2011 NO. 19 MAY 12, 2011
All Politics Is Local
Exchanges add to the dynamism of bilateral relations between cities in China and the United States

DIALOGUE: Mike James, a TV producer from Seattle, conducts an interview in Chongqing, a sister-city tie with Seattle, on April 7, 2009 (CFP)

In fluent Chinese with a little help from slideshows in the same language, Spencer Cohen, Research Manager of the International Trade and Economic Development Division of the Washington State Department of Commerce, is giving a presentation on the investment opportunities in his state. His major audience on the day is a Chinese delegation of 80 members comprising mayors, businesspeople and central government officials.

Joined by senior officials from the U.S. Commerce Department and Treasury Department as well as 50 mayors from U.S. cities, the Chinese delegation came to Seattle, Washington State, on April 19 for the U.S.-China Initiative on City-Level Economic Cooperation.

The two-day meeting, said Zou Jiayi, Chief of the Foreign Financial and Economic Exchange Office of China's Finance Ministry, was a result of the second round of China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (SE&D) held in Beijing last May as well as Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the United States in late January 2011. It will also pave the way for the third round of the SE&D scheduled in May.

Zou said ahead of the meeting the real key players in the bilateral economic and trade relations are local governments, enterprises and people. "The rebalancing of economy between China and the United States should start from the local level," Zou said.

Her words were echoed by Marisa Lago, Assistant Secretary of U.S. Treasury Department, who said at the opening ceremony: "All politics is local."

"It's the same about economic development," she said. "After all, strategies to boost economic competitiveness ultimately become successful only when they make an impact on the ground."

Sisterly relations

Despite ups and downs in bilateral relations, local-level exchanges between China and the United States have been growing steadily in the past decade.

In February, Chinese People's Associa-tion for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) and the U.S. National Governors Association signed an agreement in Washing-ton, D.C. to establish China-U.S. Governors Forum, a sub-national annual consultation platform aiming to boost exchanges and cooperation in areas of trade, investment, energy, environment and culture. The first one is scheduled to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, in July.

This is the result of talks between President Hu and U.S. President Barack Obama during Hu's visit in January 2011.

More than 100 local government delegations from China and the United States exchanged visits in 2010. The two countries have up to now established 201 sisterly relations, including 36 provincial friendship ties and 165 sister cities relationships.

Chongqing, a southwest municipality directly under the jurisdiction of China's Central Government, established a sister-city tie with Seattle in 1983. The 28 years of friendship between the two cities has been witnessed in areas including economic, environmental, social and cultural cooperation, said Ma Zhengqi, Vice Mayor of Chongqing.

The two cities have worked together for the past 20 years in building a Chinese garden in Seattle, a 4.6-acre cultural institution that has added to the joys of people of both cities, Ma said.

Seattle, home to Boeing, Starbucks and Microsoft, is widely known in China not just because of those big names but also largely because of the popularity of the movie Sleepless in Seattle among the Chinese audience.

William Stafford, President of the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle (TDA), said emerging industries determined by the China's National People's Congress held in March is "exactly Seattle's economy." These industries include biotechnology, new energy, high-end equipment manufacturing, clean-energy vehicles and new materials.

The TDA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Bureau of Commerce of Xi'an, capital city of Shaanxi Province, on the sidelines of the city-level cooperation meeting to promote exchange and cooperation between the two cities, both boasting strong aviation industry and advanced higher education and a vast talent pool, said Xi'an Vice Mayor Yue Huafeng. He said his city and Seattle are in talks about future cooperation in areas such as software outsourcing, biotechnology, and medical technology and services.

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