China VP welcomed back to Iowa at State Dinner


Photo courtesy of CNN

Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, the man set to become the country’s next paramount leader, met with President Barack Obama and other officials at the White House on Tuesday during a U.S. visit.

Katelynn Mccollough

At a welcoming dinner at the State Capitol on Wednesday, Xi Jinping, vice president of the People’s Republic of China, and Terry Branstad, governor of Iowa, welcomed and thanked the nearly 650 guests and dignitaries in attendance.

Branstad addressed the audience in English, Xi, in Chinese, as translators shared the intended messages with the multilingual crowd.

“Thank you Vice President Xi for accepting our invitation to visit Iowa,” Branstad said, “to visit old friends and meet new ones.”

Branstad spoke of the Hebei province of China and the state of Iowa becoming Sister States in 1983 and how he is glad of the opportunity to “foster an even deeper friendship … one that will continue to grow and benefit our people.”

Branstad, who was also the Iowa governor when Xi visited Iowa in 1985, said that Iowans were “pleased” to see Xi rise to a high position in the “great nation of China.”

Xi is predicted to become the next president of the People’s Republic of China. He visited President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday and met with members of Congress early on Wednesday.

“Mr. Xi has an interesting history,” said Charles Dobbs, ISU professor of modern Asian history, in an email. “He is the son of a former high-level functionary and he benefitted, growing up, from that connection — what the Chinese like to call a ‘princeling.'”

After Branstad raised his glass in a toast to the “friendship” between Iowa and China, Xi took his place at the podium to standing applause.

“Ladies and gentleman, dear friends, good evening,” Xi began. “Coming to Iowa brings back many fond memories.”

Xi said that his visit to the United States in 1985 was his first trip to the United States and his first encounter with American citizens.

“I came away from that visit very impressed with the people of Iowa,” Xi said, who described the people he met as being “honest, warm-hearted and hardworking people.”

Xi spent time with Roger and Sarah Lande of Muscatine, Iowa, early in the day on Wednesday. The couple hosted Xi when he came to Iowa 27 years ago. At the State Capitol, Xi said it was “such a joy” to meet with the family that had hosted him for two nights in his previous visit.

Xi spoke of his time as a young boy when he read books by Mark Twain and of how his stay in Muscatine in 1985 was his first sighting of the Mississippi River, which he had read so much about.

The welcoming of Xi comes after other Chinese leaders in agriculture agreed to buy $4.31 billion worth of soybeans at the World Food Prize Center on Wednesday in Des Moines. This is around 317 million bushels of soybeans.

Xi spoke of the transaction saying that, “I am here to help build the China-U.S. partnership … to help deepen the friendship between Chinese and American people.”

Dobbs said China is interested in three major commodities that Iowa can offer: corn, soybeans and hogs.

Branstad and Xi both expressed the desire to continue growing economic and agricultural relationships between the state and China.

Xi is scheduled to visit local farms around the state on Thursday as well as attend the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s U.S.-China Agriculture Symposium.

Dobbs does not believe that any student will have the opportunity to meet with Xi but still says the visit is significant.

“With so many students from China on [Iowa State’s] campus, Xi’s visit highlights the importance of the relationship with China for the United States and for Iowa,” Dobbs said.

Iowa Public Television offered a live stream of the state dinner at 8:15 p.m. on Wednesday.