Twinning With China

By Jim Dyer
First published in South Wales Argus in 1986

© Jim Dyer 2012

In 1986 Newport twinned with a city in China. This describes what was done to look after an official visit by them before the twinning.

Until a possible twinning was suggested by the Chinese Embassy few people, if any, in Newport had ever heard of Wuzhou.

A little research showed it was a city of some 250,000 inhabitants in the beautiful province of Guangxi, some 400 miles from Hong Kong. This last fact could prove to be a positive advantage when Hong Kong is given back to China.

In October Newport Borough Council sent a small party to Wuzhou with the objective of promoting friendship and trade. Impressed with what they saw there, the scope for twinning was clear with great possibilities of mutual benefits on both sides. The next step was to invite a small delegation from Wuzhou to see Newport which led to a visit of five top officials under the Deputy Mayor, Mr Ni Longsheng, on February 9th. A busy detailed programme mainly based on business and education was put together and an exchange of telegrams sealed the visit. So it came to pass.

Day One

Communications with China are difficult at the best of times and a few heartbeats skipped at Heathrow Airport early Monday morning when the flight was delayed and the party took an age getting through immigration.' Has anyone seen five Chinese?' asked a worried Councillor John Jenkins. They eventually emerged to be whisked back to Newport for an official reception with the Mayor, Councillor Lloyd.

The journey was to seal friendships which I am sure will last irrespective of time and distance. Many, many questions were asked by out inquisitive guests and details of families, trade, money and cars were exchanged.

We expected them to be jet-lagged but they were raring to get on with things and were marched around the town centre. They were fascinated by our shops and the courtesy shown which created an immediate impression. They compared prices and quality and had a special interest in the meat and fish stalls in the market.

Surely they must be tired in the evening? Popping in to their private dinner at the Kings Hotel, I was more than a little stunned to find they wanted to talk 'turkey' and was promptly presented with a 'shopping list' of things they wanted to import and export.' We quickly learned that the Chinese were very astute negotiators and a few hasty phone calls put Brian Adcock. Director of Development, into arranging a series of meetings with local businesses.

Reflecting on the amount of FEC's (the internal Chinese currency) involved, Councillor Jenkins and myself departed late that evening, excited but shattered.

Day Two

A lovely sunny morning meant a good day to see the town properly and we had a conducted tour of the local spots which our new friends enjoyed. They were impressed with what the town had to offer and a stream of questions were answered to their satisfaction. They were amazed at the Tesco superstore and asked if it supplied all of Wales!

Jim Dyer (second from right) with the Chinese delegation in Newport Town centre setting up the twinning with Wuzhou in China.
Jim (second from right) with the Chinese delegation

Lunch at Tredegar House was followed by a visit to Newport Docks and they were delighted that a banana boat was coming through the lock – what a bonus! Cameras were out once more. No they didn't want to go swimming but yes , they wanted to talk more business. This they did in the evening with an enthusiastic Mayor Reg Lloyd.

Subsequently not only did they wish to change the programme but there were problems with their Hong Kong visas. More phone calls, a trip to the Passport Office, and even more phone calls got the arrangements sorted.

Day Three

With the help of Gwent County Council; the delegation visited local schools at Maesglas and Duffryn and also the further education colleges at Caerleon and Allt-yr-yn. They took great pleasure in meeting children and were particularly impressed with expertise at allt-yr-yn, which must rank as some of the best in the county. Education must form a very important part of relationships with China and after an evening business meeting on education, points of agreement were reached with superb help from the county council.

Days Four and Five

A rest for me but not for them. The visitors got down to what they were most interested in – trade. This time Monsanto, BSC, Black Clawson and the Wesh Development Agency played hosts. Brian Adcock set up contacts with local factories and they were visited. All went well and the scope for mutual co-operation underlined. More business meetings, no swimming at Newport Centre.

As their visit was nearing the end, forms of agreement and understanding for future liaison had to be signed for the delegation to take back to China, at 11.30pm on Friday evening agreement had been reached.

Later shattered officials and councillors wended their way home leaving a mildly tired group from Wuzhou to wonder what to do with the fifteen or so ties they had been given.

Day Six

Is it Saturday already? At last they were beginning to relax. A pleasant trip to Cardiff and lunch with Chinese community there put them nicely in the mood for more evening business.

At last at the Mansion House the formal agreements were exchanged after a few alterations to a happy and excited gathering. This would set the basis for future progress and it was quite obvious that friends were made.

Days Seven and Eight

Up bright and early for a morning goodbye at the hotel. After a visit to Newport Centre we were off to London via Windsor and Ascot. Big Ben, Downing Street, and the Embankment was followed by a proper Chinese dinner in Chinatown. The meal they said was 'very good' but they didn't know what to make of Soho and the naughty ladies. Consequently, they would be back at the hotel and in bed by 9.30. Tired they said!

The next day there was bit more sightseeing and a wonderful lunch at the Chinese Embassy where more business was done. Eventually at 3.22pm five good friends entered the Heathrow departure lounge after much hand shaking and hugs. Genuine and long-lasting friendships had been made.

There are now some thirty British towns twinning or seeking to twin with China. There can be no doubt that during this sort visit Newport has made remarkable progress and now that both sides know who they are dealing with the indications for a successful relationship can only be optimistic.

The success is due in no small way to the personal relationships and commitment which have now been cemented. On both sides there is a mutual real desire to build on this friendship and indeed trade. The future must look good.

Jim Dyer – 4th January 2012


  1. First published in South Wales Argus in 1986
  2. Gwent county council twinned also with the Guangxi Province later and as the county council was abolished in 1986 Newport took over this twinning