Upon the request of the mayor of the Japanese city of Kobe, the first sister-city relationship in China was forged between the port city of Tianjin in north China and the Japanese city nearly three decades ago.
To date, Chinese cities have had such a relationship with their foreign counterparts all over the world.
Later this month, 126 cities from 46 foreign countries and 120 cities in China will gather in Beijing to attend the 2000 China International Friendship Cities Conference and the 2000 China International Friendship City Exchange Exhibition and Trade Fair to discuss ways to further promote cooperation in a variety of areas.
"We hope that the two events will help create a platform for cooperation, and we are willing to make efforts to promote people-to-people friendship as well as cooperation among cities," said Chen Haosu, deputy head of the preparatory committee of the 2000 China International Friendship Cities Conference.
During the four-day conference, expected to be convened on September 26, participants will have the opportunity to discuss such topics as sustained urban development, high technology and urban management and community service, and to hammer out plans for future cooperation.
Also, 16 pairs of cities are expected to receive the Millennium Friendship City Certificates during the conference.
By the end of 1999, 30 Chinese provinces, autonomous regions, municipalities and 228 cities have had such a relationship with 211 provinces and states or 698 cities in foreign countries.
The Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC), which is in charge of sister-city relationship in China, joined the International Union of Local Authorities last year.
During the event, representatives from regional authorities of Finland, the Netherlands and some other countries, together with those from the CPAFFC, will also take part in the Day of the International Union of Local Authorities, so as to explore possibilities of cooperation between local governments of different countries.
Exchanges between sister-cities in the areas of culture, people, the economy, trade and sports promote mutual understanding and lay a solid foundation for strengthening people-to-people friendship, a local analyst said.
Chen, also vice-president of the CPAFFC, said the conference is more likely designed to promote cooperation between medium and small cities, in order to seek a common platform for development.
In another front, the 2000 China international Friendship City Exchange Exhibition and Trade Fair will be held by the CPAFFC and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, with an effort to provide business opportunities for participating cities.
The trade fair will have an auction of more than 100 websites, which is sure to be the highlight of the event.
"Lots of work remains to be done due the fact that Chinese cities are expanding and cities in developing countries will also be developing, and perhaps we would preside over another conference when the number of sister-cities will grow up to 1,500," he said.