A look at how the Shang­hai Peo­ple’s As­so­ci­a­tion for Friend­ship with For­eign Coun­tries has for the past 60 years been play­ing an in­te­gral role in Shang­hai’s re­la­tions with the out­side world

China Daily (USA) - - SHANGHAI - By YU­RAN in Shang­hai yu­ran@chi­

Founded on Septem­ber 13, 1956, the Shang­hai Peo­ple’s As­so­ci­a­tion for Friend­ship with For­eign Coun­tries (SPAFFC) is one of the ear­li­est of its kind in China, and it held a photo ex­hi­bi­tion in Novem­ber to cel­e­brate its 60th an­niver­sary.

The SPAFFC of­ten or­ga­nizes and con­ducts ex­change pro­grams to pro­mote mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial co­op­er­a­tion be­tween Shang­hai and for­eign na­tions. The SPAFFC had as of the end of 2015 forged ex­change part­ner­ships in a wide va­ri­ety of fields such as cul­ture, ed­u­ca­tion, science and tech­nol­ogy, with 345 or­ga­ni­za­tions in 100 coun­tries.

“The SPAFFC will con­tinue to ex­pand its peo­ple-to-peo­ple ex­changes and co­op­er­a­tion and work to pro­mote cul­tural and eco­nomic di­a­logue be­tween the city and other parts of the world,” said Zhang Xiaosong, the pres­i­dent of SPAFFC at the open­ing cer­e­mony of the photo ex­hi­bi­tion.

“We’ve al­ways be­lieved that it is es­sen­tial to make ac­tive con­tri­bu­tions to fos­ter­ing un­der­stand­ing and friend­ship be­tween the Shang­hai peo­ple and those from other coun­tries all over world through con­tin­u­ous Sino-for­eign events,” added Lin Xiaoy­ing, deputy di­rec­tor of Euro­pean and US depart­ment at SPAFFC.

Stand­ing be­side a photo at the ex­hi­bi­tion, Xia Yong­fang, for­mer di­rec­tor of the Euro­pean and US depart­ment at SPAFFC, re­called how he once walked be­side Michael Blu­men­thal, the for­mer United States Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury, in Hongkou dis­trict.

“It was a sunny af­ter­noon and we were walk­ing along Zhoushan Road where Blu­men­thal had lived on for eight years. He could still re­mem­ber all the places he used to play at when he was a teenager and his fa­vorite diner on the road,” said Xia.

Blu­men­thal was one of the over 20,000 Jewish refugees who took refuge in Shang­hai’s Hongkou dis­trict, the des­ig­nated Jewish quar­ter, dur­ing World War II.

“Blu­men­thal is not the only one to re­turn for a visit. We have wel­comed thou­sands of Jews and their fam­i­lies from all over the world to re­visit the mem­o­ries and rem­i­nisce of the be­gin­ning of Sino-Jewish friend­ship,” said Xia.

For Dong Zhiqiang, also for­merly a di­rec­tor of the Euro­pean and US depart­ment at SPAFFC, it was the mem­ory of Chi­nese bal­le­rina Shi Zhongqin’s visit to Tokyo with the Shang­hai Dance Troupe that stood out the most. The trip was con­sid­ered such a suc­cess in strength­en­ing Sino-Ja­pan ties that it was later dubbed “bal­let diplo­macy”.

“The trip to Ja­pan in 1972 left both par­ties with pre­cious pho­tos of Chi­nese and Ja­panese artists mak­ing con­ver­sa­tion and at­tend­ing gala par­ties. It was a re­mark­able en­hance­ment of diplo­matic re­la­tions be­tween Ja­pan and China,” said Dong.

China has had re­la­tions with Ja­pan for hun­dreds of years and one of the most no­table in­stances is il­lus­trated in the friend­ship be­tween fa­mous Chi­nese free­hand artist Wu Chang­shuo and To­ra­jiro Ko­jima, a well-known Ja­panese painter. Wu, who helped re­shape Chi­nese paint­ing and was hailed as one of four mas­ters of the Shang­hai paint­ing school in the late Qing dy­nasty (1644-1911), was Ko­jima’s tu­tor.

“Ac­cord­ing to the di­ary of Ko­jima which was kept by his grand­son, Wu and Ko­jima had four meet­ings be­tween 1914 and 1916, fol­low­ing which Chi­nese paint­ing tech­niques and el­e­ments could be found in some of Ko­jima’s works,” said Wu Yue, the great-grand­son of Wu Chang­shuo and the di­rec­tor of Wu Chang­shuo Me­mo­rial, who was re­con­nected with Ko­jima’s grand­son Kaitaro in 2007 with the help of SPAFFC. The two men are also artists.

A joint ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing works by the four artists from past and present was held in Ja­pan in 2014. This year, the Wu Chang­shuo-To­ra­jiro Ko­jima Art Her­itage Ex­hi­bi­tion took place at the Wu Chang­shuo Me­mo­rial.

“It was a unique re­u­nion of the Wu and Ko­jima fam­i­lies af­ter gen­er­a­tions, and it also sig­ni­fied the early in­ter­ac­tions and com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Chi­nese and Ja­panese artists,” said Wu of the art ex­hi­bi­tion this year.

The SPAFFC has over the past six decades re­ceived nearly 10,000 del­e­ga­tions from over 100 coun­tries and re­gions, in­clud­ing lead­ers of for­eign gov­ern­ments, for­mer high­rank­ing po­lit­i­cal fig­ures, artists and stu­dents. It has also hosted hun­dreds of high pro­file events such as bal­let per­for­mances, cir­cuses, sym­phony or­ches­tras, art shows, ex­hi­bi­tions and film events.

“I still re­mem­ber the first Earth Run that took place in Shang­hai with hun­dreds of peo­ple of dif­fer­ent skin col­ors run­ning around the city and pass­ing on the hope of world peace to the next des­ti­na­tion be­fore the event cul­mi­nated in New York in 1986,” said Dong, point­ing to the photo of the run­ning group dur­ing the ex­hi­bi­tion.

The SPAFFC is also an im­por­tant plat­form that helps fa­cil­i­tate eco­nomic and trade mat­ters for for­eign firms en­ter­ing Shang­hai, for do­mes­tic medium- and small-sized en­ter­prises at­tempt­ing to go global and for dis­tricts and coun­ties that in­tend to es­tab­lish re­la­tions with for­eign coun­ter­parts.

For ex­am­ple, the or­ga­ni­za­tion of­ten co­op­er­ates with do­mes­tic and for­eign busi­ness or­ga­ni­za­tions to host busi­ness-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing eco­nomic sem­i­nars, in­vest­ment brief­ings and ex­hi­bi­tions. It also reg­u­larly pro­vides con­sul­tancy and in­for­ma­tion to for­eign busi­nesses that are in search of lo­cal part­ners.


The first Earth Run takes place in Shang­hai in 1986 with hun­dreds of peo­ple of dif­fer­ent skin col­ors tak­ing part.

Xia Yong­fang (left), for­mer di­rec­tor of the Euro­pean and US depart­ment at SPAFFC, walks with Michael Blu­men­thal (mid­dle), the for­mer United States Sec­re­tary of the Trea­sury, dur­ing their visit to a home at Zhoushan Road in Hongkou dis­trict where Blu­men­thal used to live for eight years as a Jewish refugee in late 1990s.

Kaitaro Ko­jima (left), the grand­son of Ja­panese painter To­ra­jiro Ko­jima, vis­its the Wu Chang­shuo-To­ra­jiro Ko­jima Art Her­itage Ex­hi­bi­tion in June 2016 with Wu Yue (mid­dle), the great-grand­son of fa­mous painter Wu Chang­shuo and the di­rec­tor of Wu Chang­shuo Me­mo­rial.

Chi­nese bal­le­rina Shi Zhongqin (sec­ond from left) vis­its Tokyo with the Shang­hai Dance Troupe in 1972. The trip was later coined “bal­let diplo­macy”.

Mem­bers of a Demo­cratic Peo­ple's Repub­lic of Korea art troupe gives per­for­mance in Shang­hai in 1958.

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