St. Louis, a city that is best known for the Gateway Arch National Park and the St. Louis Cardinals Major League Baseball team, also holds a very special place in U.S.-China relations. St. Louis and its Chinese sister city – Nanjing – were the first pair of sister cities between the two countries following the normalization of bilateral relations in 1979.
In 2019, to celebrate 40 years of friendship between the two cities, St. Louis local sculptor Harry Weber was commissioned to create a pair of sculptures: the pitcher and the batter. In 2019, the American pitcher was dedicated and installed in Nanjing. The installation and dedication of the Chinese hitter in St. Louis was unfortunately delayed due to the pandemic.
Proud of its China ties, the St. Louis local community invited Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang to visit St. Louis and dedicate the Chinese hitter sculpture on September 15, 2022
(The American Pitcher installed in Nanjing, 2019)
(The Chinese hitter installed in St. Louis
at the Busch Stadium, 2022)
Ambassador Qin’s visit to St. Louis, his first, generated great excitement in the local community. Working closely with local partners, USHCA helped to organize a rich itinerary for him that spanned three days with one of the highlights being Ambassador Qin throwing out the first pitch at the Cardinals game that night.
Meeting the Mississippi River Mayors
Before heading out to the game that night, Ambassador Qin visited with 4 mayors from cities along the Mississippi river and discussed the importance of climate resilience for communities along the river. The Mayors and Ambassador Qin aligned on the importance of a Mississippi – Yangtze dialogue and Ambassador Qin proposed the idea of establishing the Yangtze-Mississippi economic belt regional cooperation initiative. Ambassador Qin also welcomed these mayors to visit the cities along Yangtze river next year. USHCA is excited to restart the planning of our Heartland Mayors delegation to China around this focus soon.
(From left to right: Mayor Cliff Berry of Tiptonville TN; Colin Wellenkamp, Executive Director of MRCTI; Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena-West Helena AK; Chinese Ambassador Qin; Mayor Belinda Constant of Gretna LA; Mayor Phil Stang of Kimmswick MO; Minister Counselor Zhou Zheng of the Chinese Embassy)
Dedication of the Commemorative Sculpture
Outside the Busch Stadium, Neil Perryman, chairman of the St. Louis – Nanjing Sister Cities Committee, welcomed Ambassador Qin to dedicate the commemorative sculpture of the Chinese batter awaiting the pitch from the American hitter in Nanjing.
Neil remarked that he hoped that the statues would further promote dialogue and exchanges between the two cities and countries, so that the Chinese people could better understand St. Louis and the United States, and the American people could better understand Nanjing and China.
In his dedication speech, Ambassador Qin said – “the statue we see here is an example of the extensive and fruitful sister cities exchanges and cooperation between Nanjing and St. Louis over the past 43 years, and also an epitome of the 43-year history of bilateral relations between China and the United States. The two statues, thousands of miles apart, closely connect the two cities across the Pacific Ocean. They convey the good wishes of the people of the two cities and reflect the sincere friendship between the two peoples.”
Ambassador Qin’s First Baseball Pitch
On the evening of September 15, 2022, the packed Busch stadium was filled with a sea of red in support of the St. Louis Cardinals. The crowd was larger than usual because, as of that game, Albert Pujols was sitting at 697 career home runs, and was 4th on the all-time list behind Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755) and Babe Ruth (714).
The Cardinals presented Ambassador Qin with a jersey that had Qin for his last name and the number 43 representing the 43 year long sister city relationship between St. Louis and Nanjing.
Tim Nowak, Executive Director of the World Trade Center in St. Louis, who hosted Ambassador Qin that evening, learned that Ambassador Qin had not in fact thrown a baseball before, but he had watched a few videos for the occasion. After some practice behind the scenes, Ambassador Qin threw a perfect pitch from the pitcher’s mound, a feat that few honorary first pitch guests can claim! Even the U.S. Ambassador to China, Ambassador Burns, cheered his counterpart on.
U.S.-China Climate Smart Agriculture Dialogue
On Friday September 16th, the U.S. Soybean Export Council, a USHCA member organization, hosted the U.S.-China Climate Smart Agriculture Dialogue, co-organized by U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Chinese Embassy. A total of 10 experts from both countries presented their recommendations to further U.S.-China collaboration on this front. Acting Deputy Undersecretary Jason Hafemeister of USDA presided over the meeting along with Ambassador Qin.
The dialogue was followed by a farm tour and BBQ lunch attended by many local ag business leaders. We will share more takeaways on this dialogue in a future update.
China Garden in the Heart of St. Louis
Another local jem of Chinese culture in St. Louis is the China Garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Ambassador Qin paid a visit to this garden in the afternoon of September 16, accompanied by local community members who have cherished their ties to China.
In an interview with a local Chinese American youth, Ambassador Qin reflected on the importance of people-to-people diplomacy to help guide the bilateral relationship back to a productive path.
(Andrew Wyatt, Sr. Vice President, Horticulture and Living Collections of the Missouri Botanical Garden sitting next to Ambassador Qin.)
(Entrance to the China Garden)
(Gift of Nanjing to St. Louis custom made for the China Garden)
Gateway Arch National Park & Mississippi River
Ambassador Qin wrapped up his visit to St. Louis with a private tour of the Gateway Arch Museum followed by special presentations about the Mississippi River and the low-carbon agricultural transportation that it supports. Local hosts had a great dialogue with Ambassador Qin about the importance of dialogues around climate smart practices especially along the major rivers like the Mississippi river in the U.S. and Yangtze river in China.
(The many logistical assets around St. Louis that contribute to the low-carbon transportation of ag exports)
Before leaving St. Louis, Ambassador Qin met with USHCA Chairman & CEO, former Governor of Missouri, Bob Holden. He expressed appreciation for the good work USHCA is doing to promote better U.S.-China relations focusing on the needs and interest of the Heartland region. Both leaders are encouraged by this historical and successful visit and explore ideas to create more opportunities for exchanges in culture, education, and business for this region working with China.