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Friendship (Sister) Cities Conference, September 8-11, 2010, Shanghai
With the theme "Better Cities through Cooperation," the China International Friendship Cities Association (CIFCA) convened at the Shanghai International Convention Center on September 8, 2010. Madame Li Xiaolin, Vice President of the CPAFFC, which co-sponsored the conference with CIFCA, presided over the opening ceremony beginning with remarks by Chen Haosu, President of CPAFFC.

Among those who gave brief opening remarks was The Honorable Jimmy Carter, former President of the United States. Many weeks before the Friendship Forum, the U.S. delegation members realized that Jimmy Carter would be in Shanghai as a guest speaker at the conference. Officials at The Carter Library encouraged USCPFA national board members to go forward with award plans to honor Mr. Carter in Shanghai.

Jimmy Carter
Former President Jimmy Carter and USCPFA President Robert Sanborn.
Photo by Linda Hanley.
USCPFA President Robert Sanborn, on behalf of all USCPFA members, presented Mr. Carter with an engraved USCPFA medallion and a special certificate in recognition of his extraordinary achievements in U.S.-China relations. Mr. John Hardman, CEO and President of The Carter Center, witnessed the occasion, as did Madame Li Xiaolin, who also presented a beautiful work of art created by the Chinese people to Mr. Carter and The Carter Library. The USCPFA thanked Mme. Li Xiaolin, Vice President of CPAFFC and John Hardman for making it possible to meet and honor Mr. Carter in Shanghai. With assistance of members of the USCPFA Atlanta Chapter, Tour Coordinator Barbara Cobb, and others, USCPFA finally was able to honor Mr. Carter for his untiring efforts in building friendships between the People's Republic of China and the United States. On meeting Mr. Carter, one is reminded of how humble and gracious he is and how deeply he has endeared himself to so many people, and especially to the people of China and the United States. This was quite an auspicious occasion for all and one that those present will never forget.

The USCPFA heard speeches on important topics including the impact of the global financial crisis, energy conservation, emission reduction, new energy resources, and urban environmental protection. Speakers discussed urban infrastructure relating to public transport and cultural and sports facilities, as well as new city brand building. That afternoon Mr. Li Jianping, Vice President of CPAFFC presided over the Signing Ceremony for Newly-Twinned Friendship Cities. Those cities included Xi'an, Shaanxi Province & Cuenca City, Ecuador; Jinzhong, Shanxi Province & Hoi An City, Vietnam; Jincheng, Shanxi Province & Cacadu District, South Africa and Jiading District, Shanghai & Hauraki, New Zealand. After a formal welcoming dinner hosted by CPAFFC and CIFCA, the delegations were invited to take a cruise tour for a night viewing on the Huangpu River.

This proved to be a memorable day, and the trip had just started! On September 9, delegations attended the Shanghai Expo. Poised high in the sky, like a regal red abstract pagoda, the China Pavilion was a breathtaking sight with its unusual trapezoid design. The section titled "National Treasures" exhibited an amazing 130-meter wall of people, animals, rippling water, andflickering lanterns moving digitally on a recreated ancient landscape painting called "Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival" by artist Zhang Zeduan of the Song Dynasty. It was unbelievably beautiful and enchanting.

Once back at the convention center, smaller groups attended regional friendship cities sessions, which included China and the U.S., Russia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Mary Warpeha, Co-President of the Minnesota Chapter, gave an excellent lecture titled "People-to-People Exchanges and the Minnesota Chapter's Role and Involvement." We learned what Minnesota is currently achieving and accomplishments since 1982, when they began formal sister-province relations with Shaanxi Province. Examples included planning and creating a Chinese garden, a Dragon Boat Festival, sessions on disaster response, and cultural exchanges, among other activities. That afternoon, the delegation returned to the Shanghai Expo to visit the U.S. Pavilion and the exhibition "Better Cities Through Cooperation" organized by CPAFFC and CIFCA.

On September 10, during the closing ceremony, Mme. Li Xiaolin announced the winners of the Friendship Awards, which were given to Friendship Sister Cities representatives in categories such as communication, cooperation with China, and special contributions. Celebratory and closing speeches were given by representatives from all over the world. Mme. Li Xiaolin announced that the next Friendship Cities Conference would be in Chengdu in 2012. Twinned friendship cities between China and 125 countries now totals 1721. The USCPFA delegation members thank CPAFFC, CIFCA, and the Shanghai City leadership for hosting the delegation. For some, it was their first Friendship Cities Conference and will never be forgotten. Friendship Forum delegations then departed for Nanchang, capital of Jiangxi Province, for the second part of the journey.