A September 1978 program brought the first group of mayors and deputy mayors from the People’s Republic of China to U.S. soil. Led by Beijing Deputy Mayor Zhao Pengfei and Shanghai Deputy Mayor Yen Yumin, the 19-member delegation also included city planners, architects, and engineers.
In each city on the itinerary, which included Washington, Baltimore, New York, Minneapolis, Dallas-Fort Worth, and San Francisco, meetings with American counterparts covered a wide spectrum of urban issues: city planning and management, cooperative regional planning, the role of the federal government in municipal affairs, urban construction, the design and building of metropolitan mass transportation systems, and protection of the environment.
Exposure to innovative approaches in cooperative area planning, at such places as the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Council and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, provided examples of how metropolitan regions are working together to solve mutual problems and eliminate replication of services. Visits to various model planned communities, such as those in Columbia, Maryland, Starrett City, New York, and Los Colinas, Texas, provided additional perspectives.
The Chinese also had opportunities to interact with Americans in more casual settings. Throughout their stay, delegation members were invited into Americans’ homes for dinner and conversation; they even attended professional baseball and football games, went to the symphony, and enjoyed other cultural events—activities which gave them still another perspective on the American city.
The program was the first of a series of National Committee exchanges focused on municipal and state/provincial governance. Since then, eight delegations of Chinese mayors, including a 1990 group led by then Shanghai mayor Zhu Rongji, have visited the United States and three American municipal leaders delegations have gone to China; three groups of Chinese governors have come here and two American governor delegations have gone there. These exchanges were supplemented by occasional delegations of urban planners, transportation specialists, city managers and other local governance specialists.