Hebei, Iowa mark expanding ties

Updated: 2013-10-21 11:06

By Chen Weihua and Pei Pei in Muscatine, Iowa (China Daily USA)

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Hebei, Iowa mark expanding ties

Bill Aossey (center), of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, chats with Bai Runzhang (right) and Xia Wenyi on Sunday at a photo exhibition held in Muscatine, Iowa, where current Chinese President Xi Jinping first visited in 1985 as leader of Zhengding County in Hebei province and paid a return visit in 2012 when he was China's vice-president. Chen Weihua / China Daily

The state of Iowa and its city of Muscatine have become well-known in China, thanks to Chinese President Xi Jinping's return trip there in February of last year as China's vice-president, which followed his first trip there in 1985 as Party chief of Zhengding county of Hebei province.

This week, Hebei is sending some 200 people to Iowa to participate in a series of celebrations from Oct 21-23 to mark the 30th anniversary of its sister relationship with Iowa. The events include a symposium on strategic cooperation, a contract-signing ceremony, a forum on sustainable agricultural development, a photo exhibition and other cultural activities.

Zhou Benshun, Party chief of Hebei province, said at a welcoming dinner in Muscatine on Sunday that the anniversary marks a new era of bilateral friendly cooperation.

He praised Iowa Governor Terry Brandstad for successfully leading a delegation to Hebei in April to promote education, culture and trade.

Zhou said recently that both sides should seize the opportunity to deepen bilateral cooperation and establish long-term partnerships.

"The relationship between Hebei and Iowa will be a role model for Sino-US cooperation at the local level," he said.

In the past 30 years, Hebei and Iowa have sent a total of 40 groups to visit each other to deepen their relationship. Meanwhile, the Hebei provincial capital of Shijiazhuang established a sister city relationship with Iowa's state capital of Des Moines, while Handan, Tangshan and Zhengding in Hebei also built sister city relationships respectively with Dubuque, Cedar Rapids and Muscatine.

Xia Wenyi, a member of the Hebei delegation and also a member of Xi's delegation to Muscatine in 1985, said if negotiations go well, students from Hebei might be able to pay state tuition to Iowa universities, and Hebei, also home to many universities and colleges, will also host more students from Iowa.

"For those of you who think that Muscatine is maybe not as popular or well-known a place as you might think, I can assure you we are very well-known in the People's Republic of China," Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins said at the opening of a photo exhibition of Chinese landscapes held in his city on Sunday.

"Twenty-eight years ago, a seed was planted," said Hopkins, referring to Xi's first trip to the US in 1985.

Addison Hopkins, a junior at Muscatine High School and the mayor's granddaughter, is a good example. She and another 15 students from Muscatine went to China this summer for a program to learn Chinese language, culture and history. The program was funded by Wanxiang America, a Chinese-owned company which manufactures mostly auto parts in the US.

"It's an incredible experience," said Addison, who has studied Chinese for nearly two years.

Hebei, which ranks 6th in gross domestic product among 31 Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, has established sistership ties with 62 states and cities in 23 countries and regions around the world.

The photo exhibition which opened on Sunday in Muscatine marked the beginning of the three-day celebration of the sister relationship between Hebei and Iowa. It features 90 photos of Chinese landscape taken by Bai Runzhang, who visited Muscatine in 1985 with Xi in the delegation to study corn agriculture.

Sarah Lande, who hosted the delegation in 1985, said on Sunday that Xi said in his return trip last year that the more exchanges between China and the US, the better. "The event today is the ambassador," she said.

Wang Liang, mayor of Shijiazhuang, capital of Hebei, agreed, saying that the theme of the photo exhibit, titled Embracing the Land, shows Bai's deep love for nature.

Gazing at a photo about Xinjiang in northwest China, Carol Steinmetz, said she wants to go there. "It's wonderful," said Steinmetz, who presented President Xi with a gift of her watercolor painting during Xi's return visit to Muscatine in February 2012, as China's vice-president.

Contact the writers at chenweihua@chinadailyusa.com, peipei@chinadaily.com.cn


(China Daily USA 10/21/2013 page1)