Mission and memories for Iowa government

Updated: 2013-04-12 11:19

By Zhang Yuwei in New York (China Daily)

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When Iowa governor Terry Branstad talks about his friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he remembers their first meeting 28 years ago when Xi visited Iowa as a party official of China's Hebei province.

"I met him at the Iowa capital on April 29, 1985," recalled Branstad, the longest-serving governor in the state's history when he served between 1983 and 1999.

Branstad 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 is meeting President 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 (in terms of population) 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 delegation of 50 people, including business leaders and two other governors - Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bob McDonnell of Virginia - to China between April 14 and 18. The governor first visited China in 1984, leading a delegation of 60.

"We want to encourage more trade and investment opportunities," said Branstad, adding the states can also provide more academic opportunities.

The four-day trip will include stops in Beijing, and Baoding and Shijiazhuang in Hebei province, as well as in Tianjin. The trip also includes a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Iowa-Hebei sister state relationship and a US-China Governors Forum in Tianjin.

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

"We want to build on that wonderful relationship," said Branstad, referring to US companies that are doing business in China.

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

"I had never met Chinese students before," said Jenny Juehring, a 17-year-old from Muscatine, Iowa, 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 last year, Xi made a stop at Iowa to visit his "old friends" during a week-long state visit to the US. Xi called on Sarah Lande, the 74-year-old Muscatine native who once hosted him when he visited Iowa with a delegation studying agricultural techniques in 1985.

Lande, who is also on next week's delegation to China, 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 says she wants to be "a good example of how to further that relationship between the two countries".

Xi's Iowa visit included the signing of agreements for $4.3 billion export deals in soybeans and soy products to China.


(China Daily 04/12/2013 page1)