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February 17, 2010 > Sister city number five

Sister city number five

By Shavon Walker

Council approved the addition of the City of Liyang, China, as Union City's fifth Sister City. Mei Ling Zhou, Union City's liaison to Liyang, and Pat Gacoscos, chairperson of the Union City Friends of Sister Cities, presented a short video and speech about the city which has a population of 773,000 people and is located in Shandong province.

The concept of Sister Cities was originally created by President Eisenhower in 1956 as a way to promote peace between countries and educate citizens about other cultures.

In October 2009, the City of Hangzhou, China invited Union City Deputy City Manager and Leisure Services Director to visit the Hangzhou Youth & Children Activity Center's newest facility. While in China, Acosta was also invited by officials to visit the City of Liyang and discuss the possibility of a Sister City relationship with Union City. As the conversation progressed, it became clear that Liyang was interested in trade and economic relations, in addition to cultural exchange. In November 2009, representatives from Liyang contacted the Union City Friends of Sister Cities to facilitate the formation of a Sister City relationship between Liyang and Union City. After hearing their proposal, the Friends agreed Liyang should become a Sister City. The proposal was then sent to Council.

Liyang is home to a number of industries - electronics, telecommunications, the manufacture of equipment for power transmission and transformation, engineering of machinery and automotive parts, biomedicine and fine chemicals, construction materials, industrial food processing, agriculture and tourism. All are potential trade areas for Union City businesses.

The Sister City process typically involves an exchange of Letters of Intent followed by an official visitation between the two cities at which a "Twinning Ceremony" is performed. The ceremony's main function is to serve as a public forum for a Twinning Agreement to be signed by both cities. The City of Liyang has proposed a Twinning Ceremony for April 2010 in Liyang, during its Tea Festival. A delegation from Liyang is expected to visit during Union City's Sister City event in August 2010. No city funds would be used to maintain this relationship.

An annual event is held August to celebrate Union City's sister relationships with other cities around the world - Mexico's Santa Rosalia, India's Jallandar, the Philippines' Pasay City and Thailand's Chiang Rai. Aztec dance groups, Thai dancers, performers from the Indian Institute of Arts and Culture and Mabuhay Folkloric Ensemble from the Philippines have participated in previous years' events.

"The opportunity for exchange and development is very high with a city like Liyang," stated Councilmember Carol Dutra-Vernaci.

"It would be an added [bonus] to our city," Councilman Manny Fernandez concluded.

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