Unbreakable bond spans decades

Editor’s note: Amity between the people holds the key to sound state-to-state relations. China Daily will come out with a series of stories highlighting Chinese cities’ special connections with sister cities, mutual understanding, trust and friendship between peoples of different countries and cultural backgrounds, and shining light on “city diplomacy”.

From Wuhan’s Yellow Crane Tower to a modern art museum in Duisburg, these landmark buildings narrate stories of the history of the sister cities. CHINA DAILY

The Chinese city of Wuhan and the German city of Duisburg joined hands in 1982 to become the first pair of sister cities between China and Germany. Decades have passed, and people still remember that this enduring friendship originated from a letter written by a German woman.

In the 1970s, Germany assisted in the construction of a cold-rolling steel plant in Wuhan. At that time, approximately 300 German engineers and their families lived in Wuhan, with the majority hailing from Duisburg.

One day, a German engineer and his wife took a walk along the Yangtze River. Seeing the scenery where the Han River meets the Yangtze River, the wife couldn’t help but think of her hometown, Duisburg, which is situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Ruhr rivers and is also an industrial city.

Upon returning, she immediately wrote a letter to the then mayor of Duisburg, urging for a sister-city relationship between Duisburg and Wuhan, according to the local Wuhan newspaper, the Changjiang Daily.

Wuhan is located at the confluence of the Yangtze River and the Han River in Central China. It is an important industrial city with an excellent geographical location and convenient transportation by land, water, and air.

Duisburg, on the other hand, is a significant industrial city in the Ruhr area of western Germany. Situated at the confluence of the Ruhr River and the Rhine River, it is a crucial water and land transportation hub in Europe. Additionally, Duisburg is home to the world’s largest inland port — the Port of Duisburg.

“It was precisely because German friends who lived in Wuhan discovered that these two cities, whether in terms of geographical location or industrial structure, had such great similarities, that they felt a sense of home here, which prompted the two cities to desire to establish a sister-city relationship,” said Wu Min, executive president of the German Federation of Hubei Associations.

On Oct 8, 1982, Wuhan and Duisburg officially became sister cities. Since then, the two cities have enjoyed close cooperation in various fields such as science and education, economy and trade, transportation, culture and tourism, health, gardening, and sports, achieving fruitful results, Wuhan’s Mayor Cheng Yongwen said while meeting with a visiting delegation led by Soren Link, the mayor of Duisburg in March.

Cheng said that he hoped the two cities would further deepen exchanges and cooperation in a wider range of fields and at deeper levels. Adhering to the principle of mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, they aim to jointly promote more fruitful outcomes from the friendly interactions between the two cities, making greater contributions to the high-quality joint construction of the Belt and Road Initiative and to enhancing the friendship between China and Germany.

In response, Link said Duisburg and Wuhan share a deep friendship and have broad prospects for cooperation. He hopes to continuously increase the intensity of exchanges, deepen practical and effective cooperation, and further compose a new chapter of cooperation between the two sister cities.

For over four decades, exchanges between these two cities have left many historical marks.

In 1984, Duisburg recommended the German expert Werner Gerich to provide technical consultation for the Wuhan Diesel Engine Factory, a State-owned enterprise. He was later appointed as its director, becoming the first “foreign factory director” in China after the reform and opening-up.

In 1987, Wuhan presented Duisburg with a gift, a Chinese-style garden. The Yingqu Garden, located within Duisburg Zoo, covers an area of approximately 5,400 square meters and was officially opened to the public in 1988, receiving great affection from the local people.

In Duisburg, elements of Wuhan can be seen quite often. In 2015, the German Federal Railway named a passenger train operating in the Ruhr area “Wuhan China Express”, the first time in its history that it named a passenger train after a foreign city. Duisburg also named a street and the largest conference hall after Wuhan.

Since the year 2000, Duisburg has held an annual dragon boat race, a traditional Chinese paddling sport, which attracts about 3,000 local and global participants each year. Wuhan has also sent teams to participate in the competition multiple times.

Germany’s Scholz embraces TikTok, ‘to connect with a younger audience’

The US' crackdown on TikTok tramples upon its First Amendment rights. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

The US’ crackdown on TikTok tramples upon its First Amendment rights. Cartoon: Carlos Latuff

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has become the latest Western political leader to open an account on TikTok, an ultra-popular video-sharing platform owned by Chinese company ByteDance that is undergoing attacks from some Western countries, especially the US, due to “national security concerns.”

Analysts said the growing numbers of Western politicians opening TikTok accounts not only proves the vitality and competitiveness of the platform, but also shows the accusation that the app is a “national security threat” is untenable. Attacking TikTok while using the platform will only show the hypocrisy of some politicians, whose real intention is to suppress the development of Chinese tech companies.

In the first video posted by Scholz’s account, the German Chancellor sits at his desk, showing a glimpse of his office. He also announced his TikTok channel on X, formerly Twitter, saying “I won’t dance. Promised.” according to the DW. 

According to German government spokesperson Steffen Hebestreit, the TikTok channel aims to connect with a younger audience, as the German government “has to go where citizens go to get information.”

Before Scholz, senior Western politicians including US President Joe Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, Simon Harris, Ireland’s prime minister-in-waiting and German Health Minister Karl Lauterbach have all created TikTok accounts.

A Politico report on Monday believes that embracing TikTok is more linked to election campaigning and attracting younger voters. Scholz’s decision marks “a new approach” from the German government, which has previously ordered its ministries’ staff to shun the app on work-related devices.

He Zhigao, a research fellow with the Institute of European Studies from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Tuesday that TikTok is a popular entertainment platform for most people, and when political figures have presence on it, it helps shape an image of being people-friendly. 

As a commercial app, TikTok is bound to face competition, and even legal or political suppression in other countries, but the growing numbers of Western politicians are choosing to sign up to TikTok, which shows TikTok’s vitality and worldwide influence, He said. 

Given Scholz is scheduled to travel to China in mid-April, opening a TikTok account before the trip to some extent shows his pragmatic attitude toward China, He noted. 

Also on Monday (US local time), the US Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell hyped that TikTok poses “a serious threat” to US national security, as China uses it as a “tool of surveillance and propaganda,” according to The Hill.  

In March, the US House of Representatives passed a bill to force TikTok’s China-based parent company ByteDance to divest the US assets of TikTok, or face a ban. However, uncertainties remain as the bill still needs to be reviewed in the Senate. 

According to the count by Politico, more than a dozen Democratic lawmakers in the House who voted for the TikTok bill have a TikTok account. Biden’s campaign team defended his use of TikTok as “using it to reach voters in a more fragmented and personalized media environment.”

Shen Yi, a professor at Fudan University, told the Global Times on Tuesday that the increasing number of Western political figures opening TikTok accounts proves that the so-called “national security threat” accusation against the platform is untenable. 

By attacking TikTok, some US politicians have shown the world their contradictions and hypocrisy, and their real intention is to suppress the development of Chinese tech companies, Shen noted. 

The US wants to steal TikTok from China, not entirely kick it out, as banning TikTok would have a ripple effect they cannot afford in an election season, the expert added. 

For some Western politicians, TikTok poses a “political problem,” but banning it would also be a political problem as well, Zhang Yiwu, a professor of cultural studies at Peking University, told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

According to Zhang, TikTok shows the success of Chinese products and competitiveness. Moreover, as a combination of globalization and technological development, TikTok represents a general trend of the times, which cannot be stopped by some selfish politicians.