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Xi’s visit to Tacoma symbolizes city’s special relationship with China

The Fuzhou Pavilion at a park in Tacoma is completed in 2011.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will make a reminiscence tour to Tacoma in Seattle this week just as he did in 2013 when he visited his old friends in Muscatine, Iowa.

Tacoma established a sister-city relationship with Fuzhou of Fujian province in 1994 when Xi was the head of Fuzhou.

Harold Moss, former mayor of Tacoma and the first African American mayor of Tacoma, signed the historic friendship documents with Xi over 20 years ago. Moss told the China Press that he expected that Xi’s visit would create more opportunities for the China-US cultural exchanges.

Moss also recalled a moment when he first met Xi in Fuzhou. “After swapping name cards with Chinese counterparts, they just stood there. A staff member told me that the hosts won’t be seated until the guests get seated.”

Moss, who retired as mayor in 2007, said he didn’t expect that Xi would visit Tacoma, which is one of the major ports in America.

“It’s been over 20 years since Tacoma and Fuzhou established the friendship. The two cities set an example of China-US cooperation with fruitful exchanges in trade, culture and education,” said Moss.

Marilyn Strickland, the incumbent mayor of Tacoma, has paid two visits to Fuzhou. Last year, she visited the city to mark the 20th anniversary of Tacoma-Fuzhou sister-city relationship.

Strickland said the two cities will have a promising development potential in education. She hoped to launch a student-exchange program in the future.

Fuzhou Pavilion

Moss also drove China Press reporter to visit the Fuzhou Pavilion at a park in Tacoma. It took six weeks for four craftsmen to build the white-walled and red-roofed pavilion in China, which was designed to mark the China-US friendship. It is under renovation ahead of Xi’s visit.

Panqiu Hongjuan, one of the advocates of the Fuzhou Pavilion, said she was unaware of the humiliating history of the 19th century when she first came to Tacoma.

On November 3, 1885, over 200 Chinese residents were forced to leave Tacoma during a violent campaign led by then Tacoma mayor, with their residences burnt down. In 1993, Tacoma apologized to the public for the anti-Chinese campaign and decided to set up a Chinese-style park in Tacoma. Unlike other American cities on the Western coast, there is no China Town in Tacoma.

Some 1000 Chinese workers were hired to build part of America’s cross-continent railroad that connected Seattle, Tacoma and San Francisco in 1870s.

“It is humiliating to force Chinese out of the city. They played a key role in building the railroad, said Panqiu. “Now more Chinese are coming to Tacoma and one of the schools in Tacoma has included Chinese language as an optional course.”

The sister-city agreement between Fuzhou and Tacoma is a forward-looking decision. It opened a window for Americans to learn history and Chinese culture, said Panqiu.

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