The cities of Richmond and Xiamen, China are now officially sisters.
The deal to link the two in arms was formally signed by Mayor Malcolm Brodie today (Friday) in Xiamen in front of a delegation from Richmond city council and school trustees.
"We are extremely pleased to extend and expand the rewarding partnership we've formed with Xiamen," said Brodie.
"It's fitting that this special occasion was marked by last night's special concert by the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra, which gave its first-ever performance in North America in Richmond in 2009 as part of our previous Friendship City relationship."
Brodie formally signed the new agreement with his counterpart, Mayor Liu Kequing of Xiamen, in a ceremony Friday morning.
The event was marked by a special performance the previous evening by the Xiamen Philharmonic Orchestra at the 700-seat concert hall in the Xiamen International Conference Centre.
The decision to link up with Xiamen and the expenditure of taxpayers' money to send a large city council delegation to China has been heavily criticized in recent weeks.
But the city insists the new relationship will "further promote and develop exchanges and cooperation in fields like culture, education, tourism, science, technology, business and trade."
Xiamen and Richmond have been Friendship Cities since 2008.
Brodie is leading a 21-member Richmond delegation, not all from council, visiting Xiamen. The delegation also includes representatives of Tourism Richmond, Richmond Chamber of Commerce, Richmond School Board, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Trinity Western University and the Richmond Sister City Committee, all of whom paid for their own trip.
The visit is focused on increasing tourism and economic development, particularly through expanded air service between Richmond and China, further tapping into the increasing demand for international education and exploring other economic development opportunities.
Richmond and Xiamen have strong economic and cultural ties. Nearly half of Richmond's population is of Chinese descent and many immigrated to Canada from Xiamen and the surrounding Fujian region.
Many Richmond businesses maintain strong connections and ongoing trade with companies in Xiamen and the surrounding area.