The Atlanta Sister City Commission is recommending Ningbo, China, over two other Chinese cities to be Atlanta’s next Sister City and its first in the country.

The decision comes after months of presentations to the commission and speculation in Atlanta’s Chinese-American community about which Chinese city would be best suited for Atlanta.

Wuhan, China, a logistics hub in the central part of the country, and Dalian, China, a financial capital along the northeastern coast, were also contenders for the Sister City designation.

But existing political and commercial relationships between Atlanta and Ningbo, a major east coast business center, and the potential for educational and cultural exchanges between the two cities made Ningbo the best choice for Atlanta, Teri Simmons, the commission chair, told GlobalAtlanta.

She noted, however, that all three cities were excellent candidates.

A city of about 6 million people, Ningbo is located south of Shanghai and is a major entrepreneurial capital in China, according to Jane Li, a native of the city who now lives in Atlanta.

Ms. Li headed up Ningbo’s Sister City candidacy after the city’s mayor visited Atlanta in 2005. She said that after that trip, Ningbo officials became very eager to develop a formal relationship with Atlanta.

Ms. Li was unable to comment on the Sister City announcement, as she was returning from a Georgia trade mission to the city at the time GlobalAtlanta went to press.

Lani Wong, president of the Atlanta branch of the National Association of Chinese Americans, said that she was pleased that a Sister City had been selected, since it will help to promote China in Atlanta.

Ms. Wong headed Wuhan’s efforts to become a Sister City of Atlanta. She said that she backed Wuhan because as a logistics hub, “it has a lot of potential for the future,” she told GlobalAtlanta.

Dalian was represented in Atlanta by Chinese-American professionals Theresa Qian who works with BellSouth Corp. and Jiguang Zhang, chief technical officer with Excellatron Solid State LLC. Mr. Zhang said that he supported Dalian’s Sister City efforts because as a financial capital and popular tourist destination, it offered many collaborative opportunities for Atlanta.

Potential for commercial connections in addition to cultural and educational ties has been important in Atlanta’s Sister City relationships for more than a year now.

In October, the city hosted 13 of its 18 Sister Cities here to see how they could leverage their relationships for economic development. And Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin recently visited Daegu, Korea and Fukuoka, Japan – two Atlanta Sister Cities – during a trade mission to Asia this spring.

The city’s enthusiasm to someday host a Chinese Consulate General here and its support for a Delta Air Lines Inc. direct flight to Shanghai are indicative of how a Sister City relationship with Ningbo could develop, according to Ms. Simmons.

“I think it will formalize very quickly, as Atlanta is eager to deepen its ties with China,” she said.

Both Ms. Franklin and the Atlanta City Council must approve Ningbo as a Sister City before the relationship is official.

Story Contacts, Links and Related Stories
Ningbo information – Jane Li

Mayor Shirley Franklin’s office – David Constant (404) 658-6762