The history of Beijing’s sister cities is very much the history of China’s continuing period of opening up following the Cultural Revolution. The capital now has 42 sister cities, drawn from the worldwide A-list of the grandest metropoleis.
The first twin town relationship was with Tokyo, which began as late as 1979. Sino-Japanese relations were thawing, and as China turned its sights on the rest of the world, the capital of their successful Asian neighbor made for an appealing symbolic partner.
After Deng Xiaoping’s historic visit to America in 1979, Beijing twinned with its second sister city, New York, in 1980. China’s capital now maintains sister city relations with 36 other national capitals (in fairness, Madrid and the Madrid Autonomous Community, both listed, count as one) including Seoul, Berlin, Moscow, Paris, Rome, Lima, Bangkok, London, Belgrade, Tel Aviv, and Astana. Bonus points if you correctly guessed Kazakhstan, China’s oil-rich neighbor and chum, for the last capital.
For all of China’s economic forays into sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa has been the only capital in the region to be graced by a twinning, though the entire province of Gauteng in South Africa made the cut.
The list continues to be updated, with the most recent addition of Tirana, Albania in March 2008. No doubt more cities will be glad to twin with Beijing in the future, as this up-and-coming international city continues to make its presence know on the world scene.