Iowa governor leads trade group

Updated: 2013-04-13 01:28

By ZHANG YUWEI in New York (China Daily)

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When Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa talks about his friendship with President Xi Jinping, he remembers their first meeting 28 years ago when Xi visited the US state as an official from Hebei province.

"I met him in the Iowa capital, Des Moines, on April 29, 1985," recalled Branstad, the longest-serving governor in the state's history. Branstad served from 1983 to 1999, and won re-election as governor in 2010.

Iowa governor leads trade group

Terry Branstad, governor of Iowa

He remembers how much the Chinese delegation enjoyed touring the state and meeting new friends.

"We are very proud that President Xi calls us 'old friends'," said the governor, who will meet Xi on Monday. "It is a very endearing term and it indicates how much he enjoyed his first visit to Iowa in 1985 and the friends he made.

"We are very honored to have the man who is now the leader of the biggest country in the world as our friend and somebody we can trust and work with to build greater opportunities for both countries in the future."

This people-to-people relationship has promoted more exchanges between Iowa and the world's second-largest economy.

Branstad is leading a group of 50 people, including business leaders and two other governors — Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bob McDonnell of Virginia — to China between Sunday and April 18.

Sarah Lande, the 74-year-old Muscatine native who once hosted Xi when he visited Iowa with a delegation studying agricultural techniques in 1985, will also be a member of the visiting group.

Branstad first came to China in 1984, leading a delegation of 60.

"We want to encourage more trade and investment opportunities," he said.

The trip will include stops in Beijing, Baoding and Shijiazhuang in Hebei province, and Tianjin, where a celebration marking the 30th anniversary of the Iowa-Hebei sister-state relationship, and a US-China Governors Forum will take place.

Construction equipment maker John Deere and DuPont Pioneer, producer of hybrid seeds for agriculture, are among the companies represented in the delegation. Both have operations in China.

"We want to build on that wonderful relationship," said Branstad.

A recent sister-city agreement between Zhengding county, where Xi served as deputy secretary of the Party committee in the early 1980s, and Muscatine in Iowa, has led to further educational exchanges.

"I had never met Chinese students before," said Jenny Juehring, a 17-year-old from Muscatine, who has just returned from a two-week exchange program in Zhengding. "In America we usually just think they are very dedicated to their studies, but when I went there I saw they are friendly people — a lot like me."

Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins said the sister-city agreement aims to create more cultural exchanges for students from both cities.

"These people-to-people relationships, formed on the local level, will help build a stronger foundation for more prosperous relations between China and the US," said Yang Lizhong, Zhengding county chief, after the signing of the agreement.

In February 2012, Xi made a stop in Iowa to visit his "old friends", including Lande, during a week-long state visit to the US. Lande said her old friend Xi has laid a "good foundation" for people in the two countries to "focus on positive things to work together".

Lande said she wants to be "a good example of how to further that relationship between the two countries".