A chance meeting 27 years ago has led to an international event today in eastern Iowa. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping will take time out from his official visit to the United States to meet with some old friends in Muscatine.
Sarah Lande, organizer of the visit, hosted Xi in 1985 when the young Chinese provincial official came to the U.S. to learn about agriculture. He visited farms and businesses for three days, including Kent Feeds, Monsanto and Heinz.
“We just welcomed him into our home, just like our family,” Lande said. “He slept in the kids’ room. We just gave him the good, Midwestern hospitality and that seemed to be very important to him. He seemed quite moved by it.”
Xi asked specifically to stop in Muscatine after his meetings in Washington with President Obama and others — and before more official stops in California. Lande said it’s still hard to imagine that the young man she hosted in 1985 is expected to become the next president of China later this year.
“Think how lucky we are to have him here…and if there’s anything we can do to foster better, good, long-term relationships between our country and China, we are going to try and do it and maybe be an example to our nation,” Lande said. Xi — along with hundreds of media members and heavy security — will stop in Muscatine for just one hour this afternoon for a visit with the 16 local residents who hosted him 27 years ago.
Vice President Xi and other Chinese government officials will then travel to Des Moines for an elaborate banquet tonight and an agricultural “symposium” Thursday morning. Xi’s last Iowa stop will be a visit to a farm near Maxwell before he flies to Los Angeles.