Marysville formalized their “Friendship City” relationship with Chinese city Yueqing this February when local city officials traveled to China.
Marysville resident Noah Rui grew up in Yueqing and helped connect the two cities.
“When I started the Diversity Advisory Committee about six or seven years ago Noah Rui was one of the people on that committee,” said Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring.
“He started approaching me saying that he knew some officials that would like to come and visit,” said Nehring.
During two visits Marysville gave Chinese officials a tour of their Arlington-Marysville Manufacturing Industrial Center and the city’s wastewater treatment plant.
Officials from the two cities began talking about a “Friendship City” relationship during those meetings, which is roughly equivalent to a “Sister City.”
This year Nehring and two Marysville City Council members traveled to Yueqing for the first time.
“The actual documents and codification of the whole thing came together with this trip,” he said.
None of the trip was paid for with city funds.
“We paid for everything out of pocket,” said Nehring. “Even though about half the trip was in Yueqing for city business we just thought it would be cleaner that way."
Nehring said they learned a lot on the trip.
“China and Asia have always been a little bit mysterious to me. I know a lot about Europe, my wife is from Europe, but not much about Asia,” he said.
Yueqing is a much bigger city than Marysville.
“Their city is a mid-sized Chinese city of 2.7 million people,” said Marysville City Council member Mark James, who went on the trip.
“So that’s a Marysville-equivalent in China, if you can believe that,” he joked.
“It could rival our big cities. Everything was very modern,” said Renae James, Mark’s wife and a Marysville community member.
The scope of the utility operations impressed many of the members who went on the trip.
“We come from a city so we know what we would have to do to govern with police, streets, sewers and water, and you’re sitting there going ‘oh my gosh, this is a whole different level of problems. How do you provide sewage for millions of people,’” said Nehring.
For Yueqing, it was the first time having this many American officials visit the city, although they have had council members from larger cities stop by.
“That was the first time they had a contingent like that,” said Mark James. “So they rolled it out for us, they thought it was a big deal."
Marysville officials toured businesses and schools around the city in “packed schedules” of activities, said Nehring.
One of the businesses was a solar farm, said Mark James.
“That evening they took us to dinner at one of their large solar farms,” and they ate food on a balcony above a sea of solar panels, he said.
The schools were also full of students who had a lot of discipline, said Renae James.
“Some key people in the school took us around and those kids were so well-behaved in those classrooms,” she said.
They saw students do cross-stitching, Chinese chess and calligraphy.
“And they played some instruments I’ve never seen before, but they were heavenly,” she said.
Marysville officials gave out gifts to the kids as well.
“We were able to gift them some of the friendship pins and their faces just lit up,” said Renae James.
“The kids each gave us a poem too. We needed an interpreter, of course, to know what they said, but it was lovely,” she said.
Nehring said that gift-giving seemed to be very much a part of Chinese culture.
“We had other gifts for the city, but to have something to give to the kids was important,” he said.
He said he was happy with the trip and looks forward to a continued relationship with Yueqing officials.
“I feel like we got a massive education on their culture and they learned about the U.S. as well,” he said.