Scottsdale leaders hope the recent visit from their Chinese counterparts will serve as a catalyst for future exchanges in education, medical care and commerce.

A delegation of six officials from Haikou, the provincial capital of Hainan, spent two days touring Scottsdale in their first formal visit since the cities began a sister relationship more than a year ago.

Though the friendship is aimed to enhance understanding of each city's structure of public service and tourism – the most common industry between the two – it could also allow Americans to grow in their understanding of China and throw away preconceived notions they may have. 

"Yes, there are people that have a negative thought about China," said Max Rumbaugh, president of the Scottsdale Sister Cities Association. "But you need to have a discussion about how China really is, and that's what we're trying to do."


That discussion began when artists from Haikou – painter Ding Mengfang and sculptor Chen Xuebo – exhibited their work for more than a month last spring at the Scottsdale Civic Center Library.


But questions flew last week, when the group met Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane. After he gave the Haikou delegation a key to the city, he explained city planning and the system of approving regulations.


Lane enlightened the group on the Scottsdale's zoning process in a City Hall conference room, where aerial maps and a graphic rendering of Scottsdale adorned the walls.


Celia Lee, chairwoman of the sister cities' Haikou Committee, translated the delegation's questions and Lane's answers. Throughout the discussion, Li Li, division chief of Haikou Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs, took notes to share with Haikou municipal leaders.


"We want to have cooperation and exchange in the areas of education, art, public service and public health," Li said. "And I hope Chinese people can visit Scottsdale and, at the same time, we want them to visit Haikou."


Li said the island province of Hainan, and particularly Haikou, has experienced a push to become an "international tourism city," or as Lane put it, "a tourism mecca," known for its golf courses and resorts.


Brent DeRaad, executive vice president of the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, met the delegation at Gainey Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale. Golf is a popular pastime the cities share.


"We're excited for you to see at least one golf course while you're here," DeRaad said through a translator. "There are 300 golf courses in Arizona and 40 of those are in Scottsdale."


The sister-city relationship began in March 2010. Lane, Rumbaugh and others traveled to an international tourism expo in Sanya, Hainan, before going north to the island capital. Lane said he will go back in November.


"They're trying to accommodate an international field of visitors," Lane said. "So they want English-speaking hoteliers or resort operators, golf management people and, frankly, in the medical field, too."


The delegation also toured the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale and Scottsdale Healthcare. Rumbaugh said Scottsdale health providers' response has included an interest in exchanging information about Chinese treatments, such as holistic medicine.


The trip also included a look at Scottsdale's emergency-dispatch center and a meeting with public-safety officials. 

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