By ANNIE GARDNER
Cultural goodwill thrives in Orem City as officials make final preparations to unite with one of the cultural, historical and economic meccas of China.
Orem is making plans to become a sister city with Urumqi, China. According to a letter sent by the city’s officials, Urumqi is the political, economical and cultural center of the Xinjiang province.
“The Sister Cities program is an important resource to the negotiations of governments in letting the people themselves give expression of their common desire for friendship, goodwill and cooperation for a better world for all,” said President Dwight D. Eisenhower when the Sister Cities program was developed in 1957.
Orem City Manager Jim Reams said that being a sister city means introducing a new culture with different ideas to Orem and also sharing Orem’s culture with China.
Urumqi, which is in northwestern China, was the final stop on the historic Silk Road more than 2,000 years ago. It has since become the “economic and cultural interflow of The East and The West,” city officials said.
Although Urumqi is 16 times more populated than Orem, the two cities have many similarities, Reams said.
“Urumqi is situated in a high mountain valley and is surrounded by mountains just like us. They have skiing, we have skiing. However, their winters are much harsher than ours,” he said.
Urumqi’s interest in technological advancement is another link between the two cities, Reams said. Urumqi city officials said their city’s postal and telecommunication industries have been fully developed with fiber-optics.
Reams said that Orem’s technology industries can lend their expertise in software and computer manufacturing to Urumqi’s developing industries.
Malan Jackson, director of the Center for International Studies at Utah Valley State College, was instrumental in uniting the two cities. He said the union of Orem and Urumqi is important for both cities.
“Any type of international exchange is important in this county. We both have a lot to learn from each other,” he said.
Jackson said that Urumqi has a long history of cultural diversity with 14 different nationalities represented in the city. He said that while Orem is more of a “melting pot” of cultures, each culture is distinct and recognized in Urumqi.
Jackson also said that Orem can benefit from Urumqi’s example of international trade involvement.
Reams said there are plans to unite Orem and Urumqi residents through pen-pal programs and business contacts. He said that becoming a sister city opens the doors to various forms of cultural exchanges.
“They have world class museums. We can have museum exchanges, performing arts groups from UVSC and BYU can travel there and their groups can come here,” he said.
Reams said the city is organizing a delegation to travel to Urumqi to get acquainted with city government officials. Orem City will not fund the delegation.
Sister Cities International is the national membership organization for sister cites, counties and states. They link communities from the United States with communities around the globe.
Orem’s sister city project is not affiliated with SCI.
“This is something we wanted to do on our own terms,” Reams said.
Provo also has plans in the works for becoming a sister city. Provo is looking at forming alliances with Meissen, Germany; Nanning, China; and Guauhtemo, Mexico, said Emily Eyre, Provo’s sister city coordinator.