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Mika and Charlotte MacInnis

China Daily

According to the Ministry of Public Security, more than 50 million foreigners exit or enter the country on average every year, while another 5 million live here. Of these, about half-a-million call China home.

Many have enriched Chinese lives with their contributions in business, education, medical care and disaster relief.

China Right There, a recent bilingual documentary on Tianjin TV highlighted the lives of 100 expatriates who have been living here since the founding of New China in 1949. The crew traversed the length and breadth of the country recording their everyday lives.

Now, 13 of them have been picked to be honored with the "You Bring Charm to China" award, presented jointly by Tianjin TV and Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV, and supported by China Daily.

The awards were presented on Saturday at Kerry Centre Shangri-La Hotel, witnessed by representatives from the United Nations, leaders of China's major diplomatic institutions and by distinguished overseas Chinese.

Domestic and overseas artists put up a gala show and the whole ceremony was broadcast live to audiences at home and abroad.

We profile one of them here:

Mika and Charlotte MacInnis, known as Ai Zhong and Ai Hua

Mika and Charlotte MacInnis

While their English names, Mika and Charlotte MacInnis, are known to few people mention their Chinese names "Ai Zhong" and "Ai Hua" - both of which mean "Love China" - and the two American girls are instantly recognized.

The sisters can speak fluent Chinese, sing traditional Chinese opera, and are even competent at xiangsheng, a traditional Chinese crosstalk act.

Their family moved to China in 1988 when Mika was 9 and Charlotte, 7.

Born in the US and raised in China, the sisters danced and sang their way into Chinese hearts and households many years ago.

After completing their high school studies in China, Ai Hua left for Columbia University to study drama. She is now a TV host in China. Her sister Ai Zhong is currently pursuing her PhD in psychology in the US, but plans to work in China after earning her doctorate.

She often says she feels she is a foreigner in the US.

Their grandfather Donald MacInnis, was once a member of the Flying Tigers, a formidable group of volunteer fighter pilots who helped China fight the Japanese invasion. He volunteered to be an English teacher in a university in Fuzhou at the age of 84.

Their father, Peter MacInnis, was born in Fuzhou, grew up in Taiwan, and now works on the mainland. His wife, Elyn, is a lover of Chinese music, and plays the suona, a kind of Chinese saxophone used in Peking Opera, and nazi, a traditional Henan instrument.

China is already home to three generations of this family and their hope is that the next generation too will base itself here.