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    Posted by Ben Fong-Torres

    By Ben Fong-Torres It’s short shrift time. I have a life that’s ripe (and slightly wrinkled) for blogs and tweeting; for facebooking and updating. I’m just no good at it. My last column here on AsianConnections was about the memorial in late July for my sister Shirley. My last posting on the authors’ site, Redroom, was about a radio promo tour I did (20 stops, all on the phone...

San Francisco and Shanghai: Sisterhood Is Powerful

Ben Fong-Torres

Ben Fong-Torres says 'Bon Voyage' to fellow San Franciscans heading to the Shanghai Expo.

James Fang, San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee Chairman, presents former S.F. Mayor Willie Brown with the recently published history, A Celebration: San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee, Honoring 30 Years of Friendship, 1980-2010 . They will be part of San Francisco Week June 17 - 25 at the Shanghai World Expo.

We were in a well-appointed luxury apartment with a tenth floor Bay view to die - or at least get severely injured for. And most of the 40 or so guests, it seemed, were packed and set to jet off, in the next day or two, to China.

It reminded me, kinda, of a sendoff bash some 30 years ago, when I was part of a crew for Cycling Through China, an entertainment documentary. Two of the sponsors hosted a bash a few nights before we took off for Guangzhou, by way of L.A., Macau and Hong Kong. The room in their Pacific Heights home buzzed with excitement. The doors to China had opened, but the country was still in transition, with larger cities going through Westernization. Hotels and discos were being built, fast.

The title, Cycling Through China, said a lot. The primary mode of transportation was the bicycle. Highways were few; there was little need for them.

This time around, I was not going to China, but the buzz around the rooms was familiar. We were gathered to send off several contingents of San Franciscans, from political and social lights to ten groups of cultural performers, including an ensemble representing the St. Marys Chinese Girls Drum and Bell Corps, my favorite Chinese New Year Parade performers since my childhood.

They're among some 300 people set to fly the friendly skies (United is a sponsor) to China for Expo 2010, in Shanghai. The Expo has been going on since May and will roll through October. Shanghai has had a sister city relationship with San Francisco for 30 years; three decades of cultural, business, educational, legal, and sports-related exchanges. Now, the World Expo will feature a San Francisco Week.

Thus, the party. It was at the home of Bruce and Amanda Spivey, whose daughter Lisa is an executive consultant to the San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee and served as host. Guests included Mary Lau, widow of Gordon Lau, the city supervisor who chaired the Committee in its early years, and former Mayor Willie Brown, one of a string of mayors (beginning with Dianne Feinstein, in 1979) who've maintained strong ties with Shanghai, through good and bad times.

Brown told the crowd that once the business and work sessions - including exchanges on urban construction and development, with an emphasis on green technology and sustainable energy - are done, he expected to do some serious partying, as only Da Mayor can.

After Brown checked his iPhone and dashed off, James Fang, chair of the Committee since 1996, told the guests that Brown was wrong. There would be almost no time for fun, he said.

But around the apartment, as guests noshed on hors d'oeuvres and sampled artisan wines from Treasure Island Wines, they talked about plans for mixing business with pleasure, on the Bund, in shopping areas like Tailor's Alley, and in restaurants and attractions like the Shanghai Museum and the Yu Yuan Garden.

Not to mention, at the Expo itself, my beloved St. Marys drum and bell corps. You go, girls!

PS: For an insightful look at the World Expo 2010 from the inside, check out the Asian Pop piece by Jeff Yang from sfgate.com, co-starring Belle Yang's wonderful new graphic novel, Forget Sorrow. Its at: sfgate.com

Editors Note:

AsianConnections.com was proudly inaugurated twelve years ago by San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown and 14 year old founder Mike Kai in Shanghai during an event co-hosted by Shanghai Mayor Huang Ju during San Francisco's Trade & Friendship Mission to China. Mayor Huang Ju became the Vice Premier of China. Mike graduated from Yale, and is now Founder & CEO of free website maker Lifeyo.com which debuted to rave reviews at the SWSX 2010 Technology Conference.