Iowa residents recall memories of hosting Chinese president

By People’s Daily – Global Times Source:Global Times Published: 2015-9-13 20:33:01

Grant Kimberley (left) and his father Rick Kimberley show photos of Xi's visit in 2012. Photo: Liao Zhengjun/People's Daily

At the invitation of US President Barack Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping will embark on a state visit to the US later in September for the first time since becoming president.

Xi's upcoming visit to the US has thrilled his "old friends" in Iowa, who gathered at Sarah Lande's house to recall and relish the memories with Xi during the past 30 years.

Lande was honored as "Friendship Ambassador" by the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries in 2013.

"I sincerely hope President Xi will come and visit Muscatine again," said 76-year-old Lande. 

Over the past three decades, Xi has visited the US for six times, perhaps more than any of his predecessors.

"President Xi is no stranger to the United States," US President Barack Obama said during a meeting with Xi in June 2013 at Sunnylands, reported the Xinhua News Agency.

No official schedule has been released by the foreign ministry. But Xi's visit is believed to begin in Seattle on September 22 and conclude on September 28, the South China Morning Post reported.

Long-lasting relationship

Xi first visited Iowa in May 1985, when he worked as Party secretary in Zhengding county, North China's Hebei Province.

Xi was heading a delegation of five to investigate corn processing in Iowa, and lived in the bedroom of the son of a local family, Eleanor and Thomas Dvorchak.

"I prepared a big breakfast with coffee and tea every day during their stay, for a good start of a beautiful day amid the tight schedule of the delegation," said Eleanor.

"They [the delegation] were lovely and high-spirited young people, and we are deeply impressed by Xi, with his modesty and friendliness," another host family of the delegation said.

A photo album titled "beautiful memories" was sent to the elders visited by Xi after he visited Iowa in February 2012 as the vice president of China. It included pictures of Xi visiting farms, celebrating birthday of a local resident and picnicking on a boat on the Mississippi River.

"I am an ordinary US citizen who knows nothing about politics, but I understand how valuable it is to have such an experience, which brings treasures to be cherished for lifetime," said Dick, one of the elders who only gave his first name.

"I feel so great to see my old friends in Muscatine after 27 years, I remember the old days because you are my first American friends and the short stay here helped me shape a general picture about the US," Lande recalled Xi as saying, who walked in snow and rain to meet with his friends amid tight schedule in 2012.

 "A world of peace is a world with friendship," said Lande. "And that President Xi values our friendship so much matters the most."

DeWayne Hopkins, the mayor of Muscatine, attended the gathering at Lande's house after returning from a visit to China, saying a Muscatine-themed cultural center has been completed in Jinan, East China's Shandong Province to display the history and life in central US.

"The exchange with China is more diversified and I use WeChat to keep in contact with my Chinese friends," added Hopkins.

Agriculture, to begin with

Xi visited the Kimberley family farm in February 2012, where he was received by Rick Kimberley and his son Grant Kimberley. The farm has been run by the Kimberley family for six generations.

"Xi was especially interested in the application of high technology, such as how to increase production and ensure supply and food safety," Grant said.

"He was very professional, with questions such as turnover rate and temperature control of grains," added Grant.

"A stronger Sino-US cooperation in agriculture is good for the people of the two nations, as well as for ensuring world food safety," said Xi during his visit to the Kimberley farm.

Rick went to Zhaodong, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province in July 2013 to introduce John Deere equipment for large-scale farming. A pilot project on modern agricultural cooperatives has been launched in Heilongjiang Province under the name of Kimberly farm.

"China and the US need further cooperation in agriculture based on common interest and shared mission, as part of joint efforts to solve grain problems and hunger crisis in the world," said Xi during his visit to the World Food Prize Foundation in 2012.

Xi and his father Xi Zhongxun, a respected Communist elder and former vice premier of China, are both passionate about agriculture in China, said Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the foundation.

A great friend of Iowa

"Isn't it a cool thing to be called 'old friend' by the leader of such an important country?" said Terry Branstad, governor of Iowa, adding that Xi is also a great friend of Iowa.

"Xi is glad to deliver a speech without a script, and most of the speech is about his thoughts, which is very convincing," said the governor, describing Xi as a nice, open and confident leader.

Branstad also wished to have a second meeting with Xi in Iowa, "I know his schedule will be tight and we do hope to see him again in Iowa."

"We have sound reason to believe China will go through the challenges in economy and become better and stronger under the leadership of Xi," added Branstad.

 "The friendship of sister state and local cooperation is essential for a long-lasting relationship and building trust," said the governor of his vision for future.
Newspaper headline: ‘Old friends’ thrilled by Xi’s upcoming visit to US

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