Tacoma-Fuzhou ties continue to deepen
"Many people here in Tacoma and many people in Fuzhou value our friendship very strongly," said Greg Youtz, former chair of the Tacoma-Fuzhou Sister City Committee. "It is very important for individual people, both in the US and China, to remain positive and remain interested in each other. Sister city is a way that individual people and schools and teachers can become involved in these exchanges between the two important cultures."
Youtz is a professor of music at Pacific Lutheran University, and on his first visit to China in 1991, he fell in love with the place. Since becoming chair of the committee in 2008, Youtz has done extensive research on Fuzhou and Fujian province, helping people understand why Tacoma and Fuzhou make such good sisters.
"They have many things in common: they have some geography in common like rivers and ports; they are both on the coast of the Pacific Ocean; they both have a lot of mountains and forests, and minority groups living in their provinces," Youtz said.
In addition to hosting more than 40 delegations from Fuzhou over the years, Youtz and the committee's efforts to promote the sister-cities program included getting more Americans interested in China and taking them there, teaching students about China and helping friends in China come to the US.
He also worked on the sister-cities film festival, helping pick a film that was either made in Fuzhou or had something to do with Fuzhou.
"The point is to make people meet and exchange, and all those people-to-people connections are very good for the future of US-China relations," Youtz said.
To Youtz, the most remarkable moment during his past years with the sister-cities program was Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the city in 2015.
Instrumental in creating connections between Chinese and Tacoma schools, Youtz joined the welcoming committee at Tacoma Lincoln High School and shook hands and spoke with Xi.
"President Xi's visit to Tacoma made the city very famous in the United States, as well as in China. It was a very memorable moment not just for me, but for our whole city," Youtz said.
In fact this successful presidential visit was the result of the strong bond and friendship between Fuzhou and Tacoma since 1994. There are many memories and stories behind it.
Twenty-five years ago, President Xi Jinping, then chairman of the standing committee of the Fuzhou Municipal People's Congress, signed the sister-cities protocol with Harold Moss, then mayor of Tacoma, in Fuzhou. Since then, both Fuzhou and Tacoma have been promoting and fostering educational exchanges and cultural exchanges, and the partnership has deepened with an emphasis on trade in recent years.