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Ex Chicago Mayor Daley promotes ties with Shanghai

TWO months ago, Xi Jinping's visit to Iowa cast a spotlight on America's Midwest, as the Chinese vice president recalled fond memories of time spent in the soybean-growing state nearly three decades before.

Yesterday the longest serving mayor of Chicago, the Midwest's biggest city, reciprocated the visit and said the relationship between Shanghai and its sister city was of critical interest for both countries.

Attending the opening of the Shanghai office of Katten, a US law firm, Richard M. Daley, who was mayor of Chicago for 22 years before stepping down last year, told Shanghai Daily that he hoped to address a "lopsided relationship" that led to thousands more Chinese students choosing to study in the US than American students coming to China.

Daley is the co-chair of "100,000 Strong," a project started by US President Obama in 2009 to encourage American students to study in China and bolster the countries' ties. Currently 10 times more Chinese students go to the US for education than Americans study in China, and 600 times more Chinese study English than Americans learn Mandarin.

"It's lopsided. We have many exchange students -- we have to get more to study [in China]. That's why we started teaching Mandarin in our public schools and other cities are starting to follow," he said.

Daley, who counts Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng as a "very good friend," said that while the relationship between America and China at a national level could be fraught, at a city level it was flourishing.

"Every governor and every major in the US want to meet Chinese investors -- in real estate, manufacturing and securities," he said.

"National governments have their issues but most mayors want a good relationship. Shanghai is a global city -- one of the great cities of the world. We want to build its relationships with corporations not only from Chicago but the whole of the Midwest."

Daley is working with Rahm Emanuel, Obama's former chief of staff and the current mayor of Chicago, to promote Shanghai in the Midwest.

Encouraging exports from the US to China was key, as was addressing visa issues that sometimes made it difficult for Chinese people to travel to the US, he said.

"We have to work on our integration policy and our visa policy. We have to have more Chinese people to travel to America – it's as simple as that."


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