On Tuesday, Feb. 21  the UTSA East Asia Institute hosted District 8 City Councilman Ron Nirenberg for a lecture: “Building Bridges by Crossing Borders: How Citizen Diplomacy is Creating Global Stability. “

“The event went very well and the councilman gave a very informative lecture on his trip to the city of Wuxi and the city of Nanjing in China last year. He pointed out the potential collaborations between the cities in his lecture and elaborated it in more details when he answered the questions from the audience.” Director of UTSA East Asia Institute Dr. Wan Xiang Yao said, “This event is important to us because UTSA has a goal to prepare our students to work in a global environment. As UTSA continues to grow into a nationally recognized university, understanding and appreciation of cultural and economic differences between the two countries become more important to our students.”

Students, faculty and interested city residents gathered in the UC Denman Room (UC 2.01.28) to learn about Councilman Nirenberg’s recent trip to China and his ideas regarding global citizenship, food scarcity and water security.

The primary focus of discussion in China was, “How can we better our communities?” said Nirenberg.

The Edwards Aquifer provides San Antonio residents with clean water, and the newly proposed Vista Ridge Pipeline (which Councilman Nirenberg supports) would establish another innovative way to better water conservation and sustainability. San Antonio’s water system is a model for other cities. This allowed Nirenberg to collaborate with leaders in China who are also working to improve their water systems. China views water as a human right and is working to provide clean water to their growing urban population.

During his visit to China, Nirenberg discussed the importance of understanding issues related to urban growth. “For the first time, more people are living in urban areas than rural areas, worldwide,” Nirenberg stated. Although Shanghai’s metropolitan area may seem like, “organized chaos,” its system works.

Nirenberg also met with the Vice Mayor of Nanjing Chu Yonghong to discuss economic growth and sustainability. Nationally, San Antonio ranks 38th in economic capacity despite ranking seventh in size.

The trip was sponsored by Sister City International. Sister City International connects cities worldwide through cultural, educational, informational and trade exchanges. President Dwight Eisenhower envisioned an organization that would serve as the hub of peace and prosperity, so he created Sister City International at his White House conference on citizen diplomacy in 1956. Of San Antonio’s ten sister cities, five cities are located in China, including Shanghai and Nanjing.

“Since its inception, Sister Cities has played a critical role in sustaining global relationships by connecting cities through civic, educational and cultural exchanges. That’s because we know when citizens create diplomatic relationships that cross borders, conflict is replaced by understanding and paths toward economic partnerships,” Nirenberg who also serves as vice chair of the organization, stated.

“I believe organizations like Sister City International should be an essential part of cities’ growing diverse populations. It’s a great idea to bring cities and people closer together because it then creates a society that is aware of other cultures. Through this awareness, people can educate themselves and focus on the similarities rather than the differences between each other’s societal behaviors,” said junior political science major, mathematics minor and MOVE San Antonio intern Jeremy Sifuentes.

“We are citizens of the world. The world does best when we collaborate. Our communities thrive when we thrive together,” Nirenberg expressed to the crowd during his lecture. Developing contracts and establishing partnerships with cities in foreign nations creates a stable environment, regardless of national and global politics.

As the mayoral race heats up, Nirenberg may translate his experiences from the trip to new policy goals for the rapidly growing city of San Antonio.

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