Representatives of Sonoma’s Penglai Sister City Committee, Christina M. Burnet and Bill Boerum participated last week in the U.S.-China Sister Cities Conference in Washington, D.C.

The conference, celebrating the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and the People’s Republic of China was kicked-off with a reception at the Chinese Embassy. The conference was co-sponsored by Sister Cities International based in Washington and its counterpart organization, the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries headquartered in Beijing. Gen. Colin L. Powell headed the conference’s honorary host committee.

Burnet, a Chinese language and cultural specialist who is a fluent Mandarin speaker, served as volunteer staff for the conference assisting the 200 visiting Chinese, many of whom were mayors, who did not speak English.

She has been giving basic Mandarin lessons to members of the Sonoma-Penglai Committee. Boerum, a former president of the Sonoma Sister Cities Association and the incoming chairman of the board of directors of Sister Cities International, renewed his acquaintance with Sun Tao, deputy director of the Friendship Association’s U.S. Division. Sun had been Boerum’s guide during a visit to Chengdu, the leading city in southwest China two years ago.

“It was a wonderful surprise to meet Sun again. He showed great hospitality when I was in China,” Boerum said. “Also in attendance were a number of other acquaintances from my visits to China as well as from the Embassy and the Consulate General in San Francisco. Among the benefits of the sister cities movement, not just with China but in countries around the world are the long-term personal relationships which lead to cultural and educational exchanges for the communities involved as well as the potential for economic development on both sides.”

Sister Cities International fosters people-to-people and city-to-city relationships in over 140 countries with the motto, “Connect globally. Thrive locally.” In addition to China, Sonoma has sister city relationships in Egypt, France, Hungary, Italy, Mexico and Ukraine.