As any couple knows, long-distance relationships require effort. Regular communication, trips back and forth, commitment and energy all are necessary to help them flourish.
Sister-city relationships are the same way. One of Tacoma’s longest such bonds is with the Chinese port city of Fuzhou.
Members of Tacoma’s sister-city organization said Wednesday they were excited to learn that Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Tacoma next week.
In fact, the original sister city pact was signed by Xi, who was a government official in Fuzhou 21 years ago.
“Fuzhou has not forgotten this,” said Michael Fowler, a senior consultant with the World Trade Center Tacoma.
The seed Xi helped plant in 1994 has now come to fruition, Fowler said.
Since 1994, both cities have held cultural, education and business exchanges. To date Tacoma has hosted more than 30 delegations from Fuzhou, Mayor Marilyn Strickland said.
“It has been one of our most busy and productive (sister city bonds),” sister city program coordinator Debbie Bingham said. “Fuzhou has been very active in sending teachers over.”
Initially, Tacoma’s 13 sister city relationships were based on culture and education, Bingham said.
The wooden-beamed pavillion called a “ting” at Chinese Reconciliation Park, for example, was a gift from the people of Fuzhou when it was built four years ago.
As the relationship grew, both cities agreed to work on economic development. Fowler said what started as a trade pilot project blossomed into the China Investment and Trade Program.
Both Tacoma and Fuzhou are port cities, with well-worn shipping routes for goods and services.
Fowler said with Xi’s visit to the area, Tacoma’s name will become more familiar in China, certainly among the well-to-do who might invest in companies or projects here.
“The Chinese, of course, watch their president closely, and I have to believe the Chinese press will be covering his trip,” Fowler said. “I am hopeful that Tacoma will be mentioned in their coverage of his trip.”
Well-off Chinese are starting to send their children to school here, Fowler said. As students return home and tell their parents about the area, they are more likely to invest in projects here, he said.
One federal investment tool called EB-5 encourages foreign investment in projects in exchange for residency.
Such projects here, Fowler said, could get a boost from Xi’s visit. A proposed 24-story hotel in downtown Tacoma is seeking up to 180 investors for a two-tower complex.
Louise Tieman, executive director for the World Trade Center Tacoma, said Tacoma will be a more recognized name during future visits to Fuzhou because of Xi’s visit. This will benefit local companies shipping to the southeast China city and could increase a demand for those goods, she said.
“Now with his visit here, our reach in China substantially expands beyond Fuzhou and Fujian province into greater China,” Tieman said.
Photo exhibit of Tacoma-Fuzhou sister city relationship
What: Friends, Friendship and Friendship Cities, an exhibit showcasing the 21-year sister city relationship between Fuzhou and Tacoma through photographs. The show opens to the public at 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Where: Fourth floor, Downtown Tacoma post office, 1102 A St., Tacoma
Open: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday