Harbin, China

Sister City since 1992.

Liaison to Country: 

China People's Friendship Association of Minnesota, Minneapolis Harbin Sister City Committee


欢迎 ( Huān Yĭng) 


Sun Zhe

Miles/kms to Minneapolis: 





A sub-provincial city and the capital of the Heilongjiang Province in Northeast China, Harbin is the tenth largest city in China. Nicknamed the “The Pearl on the swan’s neck” (because the province's shape resembles a swan) or “Ice City” (for its long and cold winters); Harbin's long history has led it to be known as the versatile center of Northeastern China.  Originally first settled as Pokai in the late Stone Age (2200BC), in 1898 Harbin became closely tied with Russia as construction began on the Chinese Eastern Railway (KVZhD), which was an extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Following the defeat of the Russians in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905), sixteen countries formed close ties with the city.  These countries established consulates and set up hundreds of industrial, commercial, and banking companies in Harbin.  In the early 1900's, Harbin also established their own businesses in brewing, food, and textile industries.  After the Revolution, as the Russian civil war broke out (1917-1923), Harbin became the largest Russian enclave outside of that country.  Due to this wave of immigration, Harbin is also known as the “Gateway” to trade with Russia.  Then, in February of 1932, Japanese troops began an occupation of Harbin and in 1935 the Soviet Union sold the railway (KVZhD) to the Japanese.  However, in 1945 the Soviet Army retook the city.  Finally, in April 1946, Harbin’s administration was transferred by the Soviets to the Chinese People’s Liberation Army. Consequently, Harbin was officially designated a sub-provincial city on August 11, 1999. 


Within the region, cities like Dalian are considered the region’s shipping center and Shenyang its financial hub, but Harbin is striving towards becoming the trade and shopping center of the region. Shopping designers such as: Missoni, Etro, Salvatore Ferragamo, Versace, Calvin Klein, Louis Vuitton, Armani Collezioni, Emperio Armani, and Christian Dior have already set up shop in Harbin. This is because Harbin has the advantages of an abundance of natural resources, a good transport system, and a large labor force.  In 2008, Harbin’s GDP reached 286.82 billion RMB, which was an increase of 13.2 percent over the previous year.  The total value for imports and exports by the end of 2008 was $3.64 billion USD.  Not only is Harbin known for its commercial goods, the soil within the city (called “black earth”) is said to be the most nutrient rich in all of China.  This is why Harbin is China’s base for grain production and the ideal location for agricultural businesses.  Industries currently established in Harbin include: light industry, textile, medicine, foodstuff, automobile, metallurgy, electronics, building materials, and chemicals.  Two key enterprises are the Harbin Power Equipment Group Company and Northeast Light Alloy Processing Factory.  Also, hydro and thermal power equipment manufactured within Harbin make up for one-third of the total installed capacity in China.  Harbin holds the Harbin Trade and Economic fair which attracts more than 1.3 million exhibitors and visitors annually, resulting in contracts of over $90 billion USD. 

Did you know?

* 1920 was a big year for Harbin, because it was then the Harbin Institute of Technology was founded. The Institute later developed into an important research university and contributed to the invention China’s first analog computer, the first intelligent chess computer, and the first arc-welding robot.

* Also in this 1920, Harbin was considered to be the fashion capital of China as new designs from Paris and Moscow reached here first before continuing onto Shanghai.

* The Harbin Summer Music Concert hosts international artists and choirs each year for 10 days in the first weeks of August. 

* The city has maintained a strong Russian presence from the 1898, when an extension of the Trans-Siberian Railway began construction from Vladivostok to Harbin, through the Soviet era, and to present day.

* Harbin had a very large Jewish settlement around the 1920's.  The parents of former Israeli Prime-minister, Ehud Olmert, were born there.  In 2004 Olmert came to Harbin to visit the grave of his grandfather.

* As an outpost on the Trans-Siberian Railway, Harbin cuisine is a combination of Chinese and Russian style dishes, in addition to an eclectic array of American style and Japanese restaurants.

* Because of its Russian and European influenced architecture, Harbin is sometime referred to as the "Oriental St. Petersburg".  It is now a center for trade between China and the Russian Federation.

* Since 1985 the city annually hosts an elaborate exhibition of winter activity, the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. It is one of the world’s four largest ice and snow festivals, featuring winter-swimming, Alpine skiing, and the construction of illuminated full sized buildings made from ice blocks in addition to snow carving and ice lanterns.


City website

US China Peoples Friendship Association – Minnesota