Chinese Flag in Shanghai

San Francisco Welcomes 45th Anniversary of Relations with Shanghai


San Francisco Mayor visited Shanghai with the goal of increasing tourism and educational and cultural exchanges, including new pandas at SF Zoo.

Since 1979, San Francisco and Shanghai have maintained the oldest sister city relationship between a city in the United States and the People’s Republic of China. In May 2024, to commemorate the 45th anniversary of the relationship, San Francisco Mayor London Breed and Shanghai Mayor Gong Zheng signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that commits to expanding tourism, people-to-people exchanges, and investment between the two cities. Mayor Zheng emphasized the focus on technology, innovation, mutual investment, and urban governance in the new MoU.

The MoU renewal comes after Mayor Breed’s visit to China in April. During the visit, Mayor Breed expressed her hope to increase tourism and flights between San Francisco and China. The mayor also prioritized educational exchanges through a meeting with leaders from Shanghai’s Fudan University to discuss a potential expansion into downtown San Francisco. The San Francisco Zoo will also receive a pair of pandas as the latest US city to participate in China’s “panda diplomacy” initiative.

Throughout the 45 years of the San Francisco – Shanghai Sister City partnership, there have been over 200 collaborative projects across various sectors. Education exchange has been a core aspect of the sister city relationship with students from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music coming to study at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as early as 1981. Shanghai also dispatched professionals in foreign trade, finance, medicine, and hotel management to San Francisco to develop a better understanding of Western economies.

During periods of intensified US-China relations at the national level, cities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New York City have made efforts to develop subnational diplomatic relations. Maintaining ties with China is especially important to San Francisco as the city is home to more than 180 thousand Chinese Americans, and more than 80% of Bay Area residents consider relations with China as important to the United States. By investing in sister-city relationships and organizing global events such as the 2023 APEC Leaders’ Summit, San Francisco also aims to redefine itself as the hub for American diplomacy on the West Coast.

Sam Tran is a Summer 2024 Young Professional at the East-West Center in Washington. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a B.A. in Political Science in May 2024.