When one thinks of international diplomacy, one usually thinks of John Kerry or Madeline Albright touring the world. There is the famous beer picture where Xi Jinping and David Cameron are sharing a pint before watching a soccer game. If you want to get more dramatic, think of Russian Premier Khrushchev pounding a United Nations podium with his shoe in 1960.
There is another form of international diplomacy, and it doesn’t involve heads of states or their emissaries. Municipal governments in one country will often reach out to cities in another. This is the
concept of “town twinning and sister cities.” Municipalities agree to be “friends” in the name of promoting economic, social, and cultural exchanges. In Xinbei’s case, its the case of a district establishing “cordial bonds” with other whole towns.
You can see this on display at Xinbei’s Central Park 新北中心公园. Go in from the north entrance and look to your right. There, you will see a couple of rocks sitting on the green. It’s called the “Xinbei International Friendship Grove.” On one rock, words are etched in Chinese and English explaining what this grove is. The others are Xinbei’s two official friends. One is the city of Herford in Germany. The other is of Roth — also in Germany.
The thing I find amusing about this is that these markers suggest that they are Xinbei’s friends, not Changzhou’s as a whole. Wujin, Zhonglou, Jintan, Tianning, and the city of Liyang might feel a little jealous and spurned. Of course, I’m being a bit silly. We are not talking about high school, after all.