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Mayors of Tacoma, Steilacoom receive letters from Chinese President Xi Jinping

The mayors both sent the Chinese president letters to celebrate the start of the Lunar New Year and the beginning of the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

TACOMA, Wash. — It seems as if Tacoma and Steilacoom's mayors have a new pen pal: Chinese President Xi Jinping.

On Wednesday, both mayors acknowledged they sent a friendly letter to the Chinese leader to celebrate the Lunar New Year and the start of the Olympic Games in Beijing. It is the kind of thing that elected leaders often do, without any sort of expectation for a response.

However, Tacoma Mayor Victoria Woodards and Steilacoom Mayor Dick Muri both said they were surprised to get something in the mail in return.

"Our relationship with him is a little bit different than it is in every other country," acknowledged Woodards on Wednesday, recounting Xi's visit to Tacoma's Lincoln High School back in 2015, one of two the Chinese President has taken to the "City of Destiny," and the sister city relationship Tacoma shares with Fuzhou, China.

Muri said his note was simple because, "Anything we can do to promote peace and prosperity and friendship, why not?"

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Of course, much has changed since 2015, and tensions are higher with China. There is a U.S. diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics over trade and human rights abuses. There have been plenty of suggestions the games should not be held given the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

But both mayors, who politically speaking are on different sides of the spectrum, said Xi's response is perhaps encouraging the temperature can be dialed down.

In the letter, dated Jan. 31, Xi wrote to Woodards, "I have visited the beautiful City of Tacoma twice, and I still keep the football and jersey given to me by the students of Lincoln High School. I commend your active role since taking office in promoting the friendship between China and the City of Tacoma. It is great to see your personal attendance at last year's event at Lincoln High School celebrating the 50th anniversary of China-US Ping-Pong diplomacy."

He wrote in both letters, "On the eve of the Chinese Lunar Year of the Tiger, I wish to extend festive greetings to you, your family, and all the people of (Tacoma and the Town of Steilacoom)."

Woodards said she was heartened by the response, given it was entirely unexpected.

"Our relationship is deep with our Sister City and will remain that way. It's been there for a long time, and I just look forward to growing that relationship,” said Woodards.

Muri, a military veteran, said he hopes the Olympics stay apolitical.

"At the people level, we can still do great things,” said Muri. “We need to tone it down whenever possible."

Read the letters from Tacoma and Steilacoom's mayors and Chinese President Xi Jinping below: 

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