Mayor Toni Harp will embark on her 10-daylong trip to China on Thursday to formalize New Haven’s ties to Changsha, the capital of the Hunan province, as a sister-city.

The trip, which City Hall organized in coordination with the Yale-China Association, will also involve meetings regarding economic-development opportunities for the Elm City, according to mayoral spokesman Laurence Grotheer. Harp will spend three days visiting Beijing, Hong Kong and Changsha. A number of city officials will join the mayor on her trip, including Board of Alders President and Ward 23 Alder Tyisha Walker-Myers and Andrew Wolf, city director of arts, culture and tourism, as well as David Youtz, the president of the Yale-China Association.

“In all three cities, we are making an effort to find commercial and educational and cultural ties for New Haven,” Youtz told the News.

The trip will formalize New Haven’s eighth sister-city relationship, which will involve cooperation on various issues, such as education, health care, culture, trade and tourism, according to a letter of intent signed by both cities in October 2016.

While Harp is in China, Grotheer said, she will encourage Chinese companies interested in expanding to northeastern America to expand in New Haven.

He added that the sister-city relationships not only provide for exchange programs and economic development opportunities but also facilitate New Haven’s ability to assist those in need across the globe in times of crisis.

For example, the Elm City provided relief during a 2014 Ebola outbreak in Freetown, Sierra Leone — another one of New Haven’s sister cities, Grotheer said.

Youtz said Yale has connected New Haven and China for more than a century, noting that Changsha was the first Chinese city with which Yale established relations when a University delegation visited in 1903. Changsha also hosts various educational partnerships, including Yali High School and Xiangya Medical School, two institutes founded by Yale affiliates.

“[Changsha has] been the center of Yale-China’s world for most of the last century,” Youtz said. “It makes sense to make [Changsha] the official sister city.”

Youtz also noted that much of the relationship between sister cities involves exchange programs. New Haven students and, sometimes, teachers attend Changsha schools while Changsha students do the same in New Haven. This connection, he said, is another way the Yale-China Association can “support and invest” in the New Haven community.

Wolf said there are many opportunities for cultural and educational exchanges between Chinese cities and New Haven, pointing to the similarities between the Elm City and Changsha, such as their proximity to harbors and vibrant food scenes.

In contrast to the Trump administration’s recent tariffs on certain Chinese imports, Wolf said, it is essential to understand the opportunity Chinese and American cities have to work together.

Other New Haven sister cities include Hue, Vietnam; Leon, Nicaragua and Avignon, France.

Ashna Gupta |