Banks urges Carmel to withdraw from sister city agreement with Chinese municipality 


U.S. Rep. Jim Banks is calling on Carmel and other Hoosier cities to withdraw from sister city agreements with municipalities in China.

He sent a letter Jan. 30 to Carmel Mayor Sue Finkam, urging the dissolution of the partnership with Xiangyang, China, and asking Carmel officials to abstain from trips organized by groups with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

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“You have a golden opportunity to play a crucial part in these efforts and undo others’ mistakes by disentangling Carmel from the Chinese Communist Party,” Banks stated in the letter to Finkam.

The sister city agreement between Carmel and Xiangyang became official in 2012 during the administration of Mayor Jim Brainard, who joined several other U.S. mayors as part of a delegation to visit China in November 2023 through a trip organized by the U.S. Heartland China Association. During that trip, Brainard and Hubei Mayor Taihui Wang ratified the 2012 agreement.

In the letter, Banks stated that the USHCA has collaborated with CCP United Front Work Department, which he described as a “CCP operation that aims to infiltrate and influence the United States and other foreign governments.” He stated that the CCP has entered sister city agreements with more than 150 U.S. cities “in an effort to influence state and local government.”

Finkam, who became mayor Jan. 1, issued a response Jan. 30 to Banks’ letter.

“We appreciate Congressman Banks raising this concern, and we agree that protecting Hoosiers should be our first priority,” Finkam stated. “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 CCP will have no influence over my administration or the city of Carmel.”

Brainard, who left office at the end of 2023 but continues to serve as vice chair of the USHCA, said Banks’ comments are “symptomatic of the dumbing down of America.”

“Representative Banks’ response is simply immature and impractical,” Brainard said. “China and the United States make up the two largest economies in the world. We have to have a dialogue, and we need to have it at all levels. It doesn’t mean we back down on anything that’s important, but it’s critical that we continue to talk at all levels, not just the state department.”

Banks, a Republican who represents Indiana’s 3rd District, is a member of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, which he stated is “leading Congress’s efforts to combat China’s illicit influence in our country.”