Leaked Documents Reveal Intermediaries Behind China’s Sister City Global Partnerships

November 23, 2020 Updated: November 25, 2020

The Epoch Times recently obtained leaked government documents from a trusted source that reveal the go-betweens who have helped the Chinese regime establish its sister city programs with other countries. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has promoted its agenda through sister city partnerships with the West, and U.S. lawmakers have sounded the alarm of the threats posed by such programs.

The documents show that over the years, the CCP’s “fifth column” such as Chinese cultural, trade, and student associations, and their representatives who toe the Party line have played an important role in assisting the regime’s United Front Department to promote the sister city partnerships with foreign local governments.

Sister cities emerged in Europe and America after World War II, originally for the purpose of fostering diplomacy and peaceful post-war coexistence among citizens. Since the late 1970s, China has also begun to develop sister cities with other countries.

Chinese-Australian Trade Association

One of the leaked documents revealed that a Chinese-Australian trade association helped to form some of the sister city partnerships between Australia and China.

At the end of 2017, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO) of Jilin Province received an invitation letter from an organization called the Australian International Trade Association (AITA). The letter stated that the “Belt and Road China-Australia Cities Summit and Business Forum” would be held in Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory, in June 2018. The director of Jilin’s OCAO, Wang Zhiwei, was invited to attend the event.

After the CCP launched its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), AITA’s activities revolved around building sister city relationships between Australia and China. The head of AITA, Michael Guo, held more than one job title that was tailored specifically for the different programs under BRI, including the secretary of the Belt and Road Education Alliance and the secretary of the Belt and Road China-Australia Logistics Supply Chain e-commerce Alliance. Guo immigrated to Australia from Beijing in the 1980s.

Under AITA, at least 20 pairs of sister cities were established between both countries.

It is noteworthy that there are more than 100 pairs of sister cities/states between China and Australia, starting with Melbourne and Tianjin in 1980.

Former Chinese Student

Another leaked document revealed that Chinese national Luo Renkai helped the CCP to establish a sister city relationship with Spain a few years after he completed his studies in the western country.

Luo resides in Hengyang city, Hunan Province. He is currently the vice chairman of the Municipal Young Entrepreneur Association and the head of Hunan Kaile International, a trade organization.

According to a work report submitted by Luo to the Hengyang municipal government, Luo studied at the Chinese Communist Liberation Army Foreign Languages Institute before he attended a university in Spain in 2004. He returned to China in 2014 and became the general manager of Hengyang Mingcheng Real Estate Property Co., Ltd., and concurrently a member of the Hunan Overseas Chinese Federation.

Luo returned to Spain in April 2017 to establish a sister city relationship between Toledo and Hengyang under the direction of Hengyang authorities, according to a document, titled, “Request for Instructions on Organizing Chinese and Western Cultural Exchange Activities,” issued by the Hengyang Municipal Committee of the CCP’s Youth League on Nov. 9, 2018. Luo successfully got Toledo to sign a sister city agreement with Hengyang, and obtained authorizations from some enterprises and universities in Toledo to sign various exchange projects with Hengyang.

Epoch Times Photo
Screenshot of document on organizing Chinese and Western cultural exchange activities, issued by the Hengyang Municipal Committee of the CCP’s Youth League on Nov. 9, 2018. (Provided to The Epoch Times)

Chinese-American Community Leader

A diplomatic cable sent by the Chinese Consulate in the U.S. city of Chicago to authorities in Henan Province revealed the identity of the intermediary who helped promote the sister city program between the state of Kansas and Henan.

On July 6, 2017, the Chinese Consulate General in Chicago sent an urgent telegram to Henan’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office and local authorities of Zhengzhou city, notifying them of a visit by a Chinese-American community leader, named “Forest” Rong Lei, and asked the local government to receive him well. The purpose of Rong’s visit was to inform the Henan authorities about his various activities in supporting the sister city program such as his role with the Confucius Institute in Kansas. The Consul General also attached Rong’s personal information to the document.

Epoch Times Photo
Screenshot of diplomatic cable sent by Chinese Consulate in Chicago to Henan provincial government, on July 6, 2017. (Provided to The Epoch Times)

Rong is the chairman of the Chinese American association of Kansas. The information from the Consul General revealed that Rong and the association have hosted and participated in many activities arranged by the CCP’s United Front Department.

The diplomatic cable stated that Rong’s Chinese American association is “the most influential overseas Chinese group in Kansas.”

The document also revealed that Rong has close ties with the CCP. He used government funds to pay for various expenses such as travel, participated in activities organized and sponsored by Beijing’s Overseas Chinese Affairs Office (OCAO), and directly reported to the OCAO and the United Front Department.

US Government Sounds the Alarm

The United States government has recently highlighted the threats posed by sister city programs with the CCP.

On Nov. 17, four senators introduced a bill demanding greater scrutiny over the sister city programs between the United States and China.

On Sept. 23, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned U.S. governments at all levels to be vigilant against the CCP’s influence and espionage activities on local governments.

“They fall under the authority of something called the Chinese People’s Association of Friendship with Foreign Countries. Sounds benign. But that group is part of China’s United Front Work Department—the CCP’s official overseas propaganda tool. It’s one of the CCP’s three ‘Magic Weapons,’ in the words of Chairman Mao, along with ‘armed struggle’ and ‘party-building,’” Pompeo said in a speech, titled, “State Legislatures and the China Challenge.”

The Chinese People’s Association of Friendship with Foreign Countries manages China’s sister city relationships.

This is not the first time Pompeo sounded the alarm about the sister city program. On Feb. 8, during his speech at the National Governors Association meeting, he warned, “Chinese Communist Party officials, too, are cultivating relationships with county school board members and local politicians—often through what are known as sister cities programs.”

The United States has 157 such partnerships with Chinese communities, according to Sister Cities International, a U.S. nonprofit that serves cities, counties, and states with sister relationships.

The Epoch Times staff He Jian contributed to this report.