Governor Chet Culver’s leaving on a 10-day trip to China this morning. "First of all, our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and the families that have been affected by the earthquake in China. It’s just a horrible tragedy. The epicenter was just about a thousand miles from where we will be," Culver told reporters earlier this week. "They did feel some of the effects in Beijing where we will start our trip."

Culver will visit Iowa’s sister state in China, the Hebei province which borders a bay in northeast China. "This is the 25th anniversary of the Iowa/Hebei, China relationship. I’ll be the third governor that’s been there," Culver said. "That is one of the reasons we’re going in 2008, to celebrate that milestone, and to keep the diplomatic and trade ties in place."

The capital of Hebei province is the sister city of Des Moines. Cedar Rapids and Dubuque have other sister cities in the region, which has weather patterns very similar to Iowa’s. "We’ve looking for educational exchange opportunities, trade deals," Culver said. "…It’s going to be a pretty fascinating time to go to China given the booming market and their real transition into a free market economy, so Iowa wants to have a seat at that table."

Pella-based Vermeer Manufacturing already has a factory just outside Beijing, and Culver plans to tour that facility. Culver’s due to return to Iowa on May 25th.