Iowa ready to give VP a warm welcome

Updated: 2012-02-15 15:40

By Tan Yingzi, Kelly Chung Dawson, and Zhang Yuwei (China Daily)

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 Iowa ready to give VP a warm welcome

Iowa residents show souvenir T-shirts they made for Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping's visit to the state. Tan Yingzi / China Daily

DES MOINES, Iowa Vice-President Xi Jinping's visit to the US has been drawing a lot of attention from both the US media and people around the country. The second leg of Xi's trip will be Iowa where he visited 27 years ago when he was a Party official in Hebei province.

Today, Iowans are excited about Xi's visit and think it is positive for the state.

Starting at Des Moines airport, people were already talking about Xi's visit. A staff member from Enterprise car rental service at the airport, a resident from Muscatine which has a population of about 43,000, said he heard about Xi's visit and thought it would be good for Iowa.

"I know he will be visiting the city Muscatine where I am from. I just think it's a great thing for our city," he said.

Iowa has a strong relationship with China in agriculture. The state's exports to China have increased by 1,300 percent from 2000 to 2010, according to the US-China Business Council.

But representatives from the business community have high hopes for Xi's visit because it will give the Chinese delegation an opportunity to learn more about the state and what else it can offer.

Larry Zimpleman, CEO of the Principal Financial Group, said he looks forward to attending the Iowa Capitol dinner for Xi on Wednesday night.

He hopes Xi's visit will bring the businesses in Iowa and China closer so that the Chinese delegation can see Iowa's potential beyond agriculture.

"(Iowa) is a very strong state for financial services, with many well-known financial services companies operating in Iowa," Zimpleman said.

Zimpleman said Xi's trip would be the "most significant thing" that has happened in Iowa because Xi is the most senior foreign leader to visit the state since Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev came in 1959.

John Stineman, a business and policy consultant at Des Moines-based Strategic Elements LLC, calls Xi's visit "a critical step". And he said it will create opportunities for both Chinese and Iowa companies.

"Iowa is very interested and excited about the opportunities to not just compete within China to gain market share there but to participate as China begins participating more directly within the US market," Stineman said.

Mike St. Clair, principal at Capital Edge, said with China's rapidly growing economy, everyone understands the importance of building a strong relationship.

"Everybody understands that we're in a global economy and any economic relationship we can forge with other countries will ultimately be beneficial to Iowa," said St. Clair.

Iowa also has strong educational ties with China, with both major universities in the state seeing a large increase in enrollment of Chinese students over the past five years, according to school officials at the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.

Mark Olmstead, assistant principal of Muscatine High School, said he heard the news from a friend working in Des Moines.

"We were excited (about the news)," he told China Daily. "We will put our best foot forward." Olmstead really wanted to invite Xi to come to his school, which offers Chinese language classes.

"To have a dignitary of that magnitude come to visit our community, I think it is just a wonderful, fantastic opportunity (to invite Xi to the school)," he said.

Swallow Xiaozhe Yan, executive director of Chinese Association of Iowa, expects that Xi's visit will jumpstart a series of investment projects between China and the Midwest.

"A lot of Chinese people will get to know more about Iowa and the US Midwest through Xi's trip," he said. "Then a huge wave of business opportunities will come."

There are about 10,000 Chinese residents in this state and most of them work in agriculture and insurance industries. Some 10 representatives from Chinese community are invited to the dinner reception at the state Capitol Wednesday evening.

China Daily