By Scott Smith
The area around the city of Dongyang, China, is known as “The Land of Hills and Water,” a fertile region where tea is grown and factories have been springing up left and right.
Wednesday, six representatives from the county-level city in Zhejiang province arrived in Kokomo to receive a standing ovation at City Hall from a few dozen local officials and business leaders.
The formal sister city signing ceremony forged official ties between Kokomo, founded in the 1840s, and an area with an 1,800-year-old civilization.
Wang Yucai, deputy director of the Standing Committee of the Dongyang Municipal People’s Congress, was the key dignitary speaking for the delegation, and he joined Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight at the council podium for the official signing.
Wood carving, a film studio called the “Hollywood” of China and a tradition of folk arts and an almost unbelievable industrial growth pattern distinguish Dongyang. It is both a city and a geographic area about 2½ times the size of Howard County, containing more than 800,000 people.
That’s par for the course on the heavily-populated east coast of China. The province where Dongyang is located is only slighty larger than Indiana, but contains nearly 10 times as many people.
Goodnight read from a formal declaration, and Wang read from a formal statement which listed Dongyang’s offerings, from “an army” of 100,000 business people to specific numbers of famous folk artists and intellectuals.
Education, he said through an interpreter, is a priority in Dongyang, and local industries include magnetic components, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and machine building, thanks, he said, to the governments reforms and “open policy.”
The delegation, which also included two American and two Chinese interpreters, arrived just after lunch Wednesday and toured Kokomo Opalescent Glass and had coffee at the Main Street Cafe downtown. Gifts were exchanged, with Goodnight presenting the delegates with pieces from the glass factory’s Op Shop, and Kokomo officials received beautiful, intricate woodcarvings, each unique and each encased in special decorative boxes. Goodnight received a larger carving on behalf of the city.
The highlight of Wednesday’s tour may have been the Kokomo Police Department, where the delegation asked numerous questions and received a hands on display of various armaments and tactical equipment. Police in China are not armed, adding perhaps to the mystique of Kokomo’s police.
The delegation politely declined an interview request after Wednesday’s signing ceremony, explaining that such a request would have to be cleared with the government back home.
Today, the delegation is expected to visit Central Middle School, and Kokomo Center Schools’ International Baccalaureate Program there. KCS Superintendent Jeff Hauswald will lead the tour.
“It’s a great opportunity, and it helps put Kokomo in the map,” said Tyler Moore, president of the Howard County Board of Commissioners. “It shows we’re interested in reaching overseas and embracing the global economy. It can do nothing but help us.”
Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.