A delegation from Luoyang, China recently visited La Crosse, Wisconsin to reaffirm the two cities’ shared sister city relationship ahead of the 20th anniversary of the founding of that bond, which will be celebrated in 2017. The delegates including Luoyang Mayor, Bao Changyong, visited the Chinese Friendship Garden, the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and the Gundersen Health System campus before an evening banquet. The Chinese delegation also made stops in Chicago and Los Angeles during their visit to the US. Situated in the north-east of China, Luoyang is home to 6.5 million and has a rich cultural history featured in numerous temples, grottos and monasteries and is a central hub for industry and agriculture in the region. It established sister city ties with La Crosse in 1997 with an emphasis on educational exchange and cultural understanding. Mayor Bao expressed his hope for another 20 years of friendship and collaboration between both cities, inviting La Crosse Mayor Kabat’s own delegation to tour Luoyang in 2016.
While visiting, the Luoyang mayor praised the La Crosse School District’s comprehensive Chinese language program, a product of teacher exchanges across schools in both cities over the past 10 years. He also expressed interest in future collaborations between universities, a prospect already echoed across the University of Wisconsin (UW) system. UW-Superior currently operates a transportation and logistics education exchange program with Wuzi University in Beijing to facilitate cross-cultural understanding of new technologies, while UW-La Crosse offers a Bachelor of English course designed for Chinese students.
Across Wisconsin, which has three municipal-level sister partnerships and one state-level sister partnership with counterparts in China, recent efforts have focused on recruiting exchange students from China to study in district high schools with the hope of eventually enrolling them in Universities across the state. Delegates from both UW and Wisconsin public schools travelled to China in early 2015 to promote the new program with hopes of attracting new students into the burgeoning Chinese student community in Wisconsin which already accounts for over 36% of foreign students in the state. This mirrors moves in other states such as Indiana where school districts are looking to attract Chinese students eager to study in the US, while also bolstering flagging student enrollment numbers and generating new revenues to support the schools. Ties between Wisconsin and China also extend beyond education and cultural exchange, as Wisconsin enjoys a strong trade relationship with China and is the largest producer of ginseng in the US, exporting millions of dollars’ worth of the root crop to China every year.
Edward Chang is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Sydney.