You wouldn’t expect Anaheim’s Sister City Commission to be the occasion for charged political debate, but during the body’s February and March meetings, Commissioner Larry Larsen has taken a rhetorical blowtorch to cementing a sister city relationship between Anaheim and the Chinese city of Pudong.
Pudong is basically a borough of Shanghai and home to the Shanghai Disney Resort. The two cities had established a “friendly city” relationship several years ago, which has never advanced to full-fledged sister city status.
When the subject of doing so came up at the Sister City Commission meeting this past February, Larsen – who was appointed to by Councilman Jose F. Moreno – exploded that Anaheim would consider taking that step with a Chinese city given how COVID-19 – which originated in China – has devastated Anaheim’s economy and shuttered its schools.
“You mean to tell me Pudong is even a remote consideration?,” Larsen thundered. “I’m blown away. This city that has taken it in the gut from China, and now we’re gonna smack happy with these people? I’m absolutely stunned.”
“Tell me how things have been out in the Resort Area this past year?,” Larsen continued. “It’s called the China virus. The City of Anaheim is in the tank. And we’re going to invite them into our house? I am stunned that anybody in Anaheim would even consider such a thing.”
Larsen noted Pudong’s indifference, which he attributed to the Communist government’s hostility toward any friendliness toward the Dalia Lama and Tibetan liberty.
“How many years did Pudong ignore us, and didn’t even respond to any form of communication,” said Larsen. “And the reason Pudong didn’t communicate with us for about five or six years was because of Mayor Tait and his relationship with the Dalai Lama. And the minute Mayor Tait was out of office, here came Pudong knocking on the door. This is crazy.”
Nonetheless, the matter was formally agendized for the commission’s March 2021 meeting. When the item came up, Larsen picked up where he had left off.
“Quite frankly, I am absolutely, I don’t know what the word would be? Stunned? Befuddled? Mind blown? That we’re even having this conversation. I’m not going to bother going into the damage that was done worldwide or even in our country and even in our state,” Larsen declared. “Just look at what has happened to Anaheim, and why we would even consider having a conversation with these people, let alone inviting them over for a campfire and slow dance to a bunch of Joan Baez albums.”
“The city for all intents and purposes…our kids have been out of school for a year, the people are unemployed, the city for all intents and purposes is teetering on bankruptcy – and we want to court these people?” Larsen continued. “It makes no sense to me at all. And I can’t believe that anybody would even want to do that.”
When Commissioner Taline Cole countered that the commission should put aside considerations of politics and government in this instance and politics, Larsen responded she was being naive.
“Taline, first of all you have to be awful naïve not to understand that not one thing is said or done in the country of China that isn’t government,” said
Deputy City Manager intervened to note that no action was required, and the commission could simply stay with the status quo and leave the Anaheim-Pudong relationship in stasis.
Larsen agreed, while volunteering his view that the Chinese government owed Anaheim a large sum of money.
“Well, if Pudong, out of a gesture of friendliness or kindness or whatever word you want to use, wants to write a check for $150 million to Anaheim to reimburse us for the damage that’s been done, I would probably look kindly on that.”
On a related note, this Tuesday the Anaheim City Council will be voting on a resolution denouncing anti-Asian prejudice.