Chinese VP to visit Iowa to discuss agriculture

Randi Reeder

China’s vice president Xi Jinping, the likely successor to the country’s presidency, met with President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday to help resolve differences related to business and agriculture.

“In the long and difficult journey of the U.S.-Chinese relationship, this visit will be just one of the bilateral efforts to maintain the momentum and keep the direction of the most important inter-state engagement of our times,” said Xiaoyuan Liu, professor of Asian history.

Xi is set to arrive in Iowa on Wednesday to attend a first-ever U.S.-China agricultural symposium on Thursday in Des Moines.

Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack developed this forum for Xi and other Chinese and U.S. officials to discuss agriculture, food security, food safety and other related topics. Xi is also scheduled to visit California.

Besides trying to have better agriculture ties with Iowa, the reason for Xi’s visit is a recap of his trip to Iowa in 1985 when he stayed with a Muscatine family.

Relations with China are crucial because the country is now the number one customer of U.S. agriculture products, including three of Iowa’s top items — soybeans, corn and pork.

“One reason, one very significant reason, that Iowa commodity prices … are at or near historic highs is large purchases of such goods by China,” said Charles Dobbs, professor of modern East Asian history.

Dobbs is currently presenting a paper at the Hong Kong University campus.

“The government in Beijing seeks to raise the standard of living for the 1.3 billion people on the mainland, it will mean a bigger diet, more meat and likely more purchases of Iowa commodities … good for our farm sector, good for our state,” Dobbs said.

In 2010, China was the fourth-largest customer for Iowa — trailing only Canada, Mexico and Japan — for agricultural products accounting for approximately 6 percent of the value of all exports. Currently, soybeans have been the leading export.

According to Thomson Reuters, a corporation that provides data to businesses and professionals, China is now the largest buyer of U.S. soybeans, while becoming an increasingly important exporter of U.S. corn and pork. Farm exports are up from $18.6 billion in 2010.

China now represents about one-fifth of American sales of goods and does not show any sign of slowing down.