Carmel to end formal relationship with Chinese Sister City


The City of Carmel is ending its Sister City relationship with Xiangyang, China. 

The decision to cut formal ties is a result of the recent passage of House Enrolled Act 1120, which prohibits Indiana municipalities from entering into Sister City agreements with entities located in a “foreign adversary,” defined by the federal government as China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia and the Maduro Regime in Venezuela. 

CIC COM 1115 SF Sue Finkam
Sue Finkam

The language of the bill, signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb March 13, only prohibits future partnerships, but based on comments from state legislators Carmel Mayor Sue Finkam said it appears the law was meant to apply to existing relationships, as well. 

“I am going to unbundle us from that formal relationship. It’s what the (bill) author’s intent was,” Finkam said. “We can still do all the things we did before with our local Chinese Americans here without that (formal) relationship. So, let’s go back to still having a relationship with our local Chinese Americans who are freedom-loving and let them worry about the politics of foreign adversaries at the state level.” 

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 nonprofit U.S. Heartland China Association. During that trip, Brainard and Hubei Mayor Taihui Wang ratified the 2012 agreement.

In January, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks called on Carmel and other Hoosier cities to withdraw from Sister City agreements with municipalities in China and urged local officials to abstain from trips organized by groups with ties to the Chinese Communist Party, which he claims includes USHCA. Brainard, who left elected office at the end of 2023 but remains USHCA vice chair, previously told Current he found Banks’ stance to be “simply immature and impractical.” 

Finkam withdrew Carmel from USHCA membership in February, which saved the city $25,000 per year. At the time she said she did not intend to dissolve the Sister City relationship with Xiangyang, but the new state law, which goes into effect July 1, changed the plan.

During his last years in office, Brainard signed agreements with several new Sister Cities, including in Latvia, France and India. Finkam said Sister City partnerships provide several benefits. 

“There’s a lot we can learn from other cultures and countries,” she said. “It opens your eyes to a bigger world, especially if you can’t afford to travel. It brings other cultures here, and I think there’s a lot of value in that.” 

Finkam said in the future she would like to further research economic development opportunities with Carmel’s Sister Cities and possibly add a Sister City in England, but added that it’s “not a top priority” for her administration.