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May 6, 2009 > Birth of New Sister City Relationship

Birth of New Sister City Relationship

By Simon Wong
Photos By courtesy of Mrs. Rose Gin

The City of Hayward plans to welcome a new member to the family.

Yixing (pronounced ee-shing) in China would join Faro (Portugal), Funabashi (Japan), Ghazni (Afghanistan) and San Felipe (state of Baja California, Mexico) as the newest of Hayward's sister cities. Yixing, famed for its clay, tea-ware and bamboo forests, is two hours west of Shanghai by road and has a population of 1.6 million.

Council Member Anna May, businesswoman Marita Cheng (Chair of the Hayward-Yixing Sister City Formation Committee), president of Chabot La Positas College Board of Trustees Dr Hal Gin (Vice-Chair), businessman Francis Cheng (Liaison Officer) and business broker Harry Tse and immigration attorney Warrren Woo (Advisory Board members) returned from a three-day visit toward the end of April.

"The aim of a sister-city relationship is reciprocal exchange of culture, education, business... learning how things are done elsewhere. It's an opportunity to know the other city well and, of course, to promote Hayward. Just as important, there's much that people don't know about China," explained Marita Cheng.

Membership of Sister Cities International, a non-profit that facilitates "twinning" and describes itself as a "citizen diplomacy network," is not obligatory. Relationships can form if both cities have the will to do so.

Cheng knows the chair of the committee that matched the cities of Alameda and Jiangyin (China). When the chair mentioned Yixing was searching for a sister city, Cheng suggested Hayward. Hayward's Council and community members expressed interest and her friend recommended Hayward to Yixing.

"Right now, the relationship's being formed, so isn't formal yet. It starts with each city sending a delegation to that location, exploring possibilities and requires both cities' officials to eventually sign a sister-city agreement. This trip's the first big step towards that. Yixing invited us," said Gin.

"The next step is to invite a delegation from Yixing. If they like us, there's a match. We'll then contact Sister Cities International," said Cheng.

"It's almost like a dating game," Gin added. "Our hosts are very excited. We know there is strong interest that will sustain this relationship. Both parties parted eager to learn from each other and move the program forward."

"Yixing's a new city and the planners understand the importance of a solid foundation for the future. The infrastructure is excellent and they've utilized natural resources, such as limestone caves and bamboo forests, for recreation. They also see the importance of transportation. We see it, too, but aren't doing enough about it," said Council Member May.

Traditionally, the Chinese place great store by education. Yixing is keen to set up exchange programs, ranging from junior high to Chabot College and Cal State East Bay. The city also has a residential, vocational school with workshops and more than a thousand students enrolled. Hayward's delegates also gleaned interest in medical and hospital practises in the US.

Before inviting the Yixing delegation to Hayward, the formation committee must raise enough funds to reciprocate their hosts' hospitality. Hayward's delegates paid their own passage to and from China but the three-day visit was fully hosted.

"We hope there'll be interest and support in this venture throughout the East Bay. Now that we've firmly established the process of creating a relationship, we're opening up to the community to increase our membership and work towards welcoming our friends from Yixing," said Cheng and Gin.

In the longer-term, the committee hopes to offer a bursary to help Hayward students wishing to study in China and to find host families to facilitate student exchanges.

"We'll showcase Hayward. We have an airport, shoreline, panoramic views, golf courses, a new elementary school with a dual-immersion program in English and Mandarin, good industrial areas, technology companies and well-equipped hospitals. Physically, Hayward might be the 'little sister' but we have much to offer. Everyone regards the US as a model," said May.

On learning of May's maternal grandparents' province of origin, Jixing's Vice-Mayor informed her "many of the great communist leaders are from that province; you should be very proud." If anything, this ancestry cemented the personal bond between Hayward's delegates and their hosts.

Yixing's delegation hopes to visit in late October after celebrating the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China.

For more details and opportunities to sponsor, donate and assist with the visit and program, please email Marita Cheng at haywardyixingsistercity@gmail.com or call (510) 538 4793. Individual and corporate enquiries are welcomed.

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