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Chowchilla may soon have a sister city across the globe. What does that mean?

The Chowchilla Civic Center on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, is where the City Council meets.
The Chowchilla Civic Center on Tuesday, July 14, 2015, is where the City Council meets. tmiller@mercedsunstar.com

Chowchilla's population is almost 19,000 and spans 11 square miles, while the Chinese county-city of Rushan has more than 500,000 people and stretches over 643 square miles.

But these two vastly different cities are in discussions about becoming much closer.

The Chowchilla City Council gave approval to formalize negotiations on becoming sister cities with Rushan, located in the Shandong province of China, to promote a commercial and cultural exchange, according to a news release.

Sister cities are defined as a "broad-based, long-term partnership between two communities in two countries," according to Sister Cities International, a nonprofit organization founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956.

According to the organization, sister cities form connections that could include business, trade and educational and cultural exchanges. They often send delegations to experience different cultures.

The release states that dialogue between Chowchilla and Rushan had been running through a Chinese investor with landholdings in Chowchilla.

"The Chowchilla City Council and officials in Rushan view this relationship as anchoring two ends of a conduit," the release states.

The partnership, according to the release, will present Chowchilla with an important hub in China for commercial and cultural access to residents of the city and of China.

For Rushan, Chowchilla's industrial park will be a "gateway to California and the United States" for cultural and business interests.

"Chowchilla has been approached by agricultural processors wanting to sell their products in China," Chowchilla City Administrator Brian Haddix said in the release.

Chowchilla Mayor Dennis Haworth said Chowchilla is geographically well-placed for businesses in the San Joaquin Valley and the Bay Area to work with Chinese consumers.

Haworth also said Rushan's love for its natural beauty is much like Chowchilla's fondness for Yosemite National Park.

"Wait until they experience our Stampede or Rodeo," Haworth said. "I can't wait to learn more about our future sister city as we exchange delegations."

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