Carmel Mayor Sue Finkam announced Tuesday that she is reviewing a sister-city agreement that former Mayor Jim Brainard made with a community in China, after an Indiana congressman raised concerns about China’s push for such local diplomatic relations.
U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, a Republican running for the U.S. Senate, called on the city of Carmel to withdraw from a sister-city agreement with the Chinese city of Xiangyang and to refuse trips organized by groups linked to China’s ruling party. Finkham, also a Republican, said the city has no plans to travel to China.
Banks wrote a letter to Finkam after the Washington Post published a story about China’s focus on diplomacy with local U.S. leaders. The article featured a trip Brainard took to China in October with five other U.S. mayors. During the tour, the Republican mayor ratified a sister-city agreement with Xiangyang that was established in 2012.
Banks raised questions about China’s motives, writing that such sister-city agreements have forced American politicians to “endorse [the] one-China policy and to oppose policies that could harm China.” The policy maintains that Taiwan is part of China.
“We appreciate Congressman Banks raising this concern, and we agree that protecting Hoosiers should be our first priority,” Finkam said in a written statement. “As part of our transition, all agreements and contracts put in place by the previous administration, including sister-city agreements, are currently under review.
“In the meantime, we have no plans for any travel to China, and the [Chinese Communist Party] will have no influence over my administration or the city of Carmel.”
Finkam succeeded Brainard this month after he left office following 28 years as mayor.
Carmel also has sister-city agreements with Kawachinagano (Japan), Cortona (Italy), Jelgava (Latvia), Visakhapatnam (India), Rueil-Malmaison (France) and Seiffen (Germany).
The city’s website says sister-cities were created to “promote peace through people-to-people relationships.”
A news release in November announcing Carmel’s sister-city signing with Xiangyang said the two cities agreed to “make a concerted effort, on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, to promote people-to-people friendly contacts and economic and trade interflow between them and actively carry out exchanges and cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, science and technology. In addition, exchanges may also include culture, sports, health, education and personnel.”
“Despite the challenges of the global relationship between the U.S. and Chinese leaders,” Brainard sadi in the announcement, “it is important that our people continue to build positive relationships under the Sister Cities agreement that will benefit both cities.”