Over 150 government officials and business leaders from China’s Hebei Province celebrated their 30-year sister-state relationship with the State of Iowa with events in Des Moines today. Zhou Benshun, secretary of the Communist Party committee in the Hebei Province, spoke warmly of friendships the Chinese have developed with Iowans over the past three decades.

“You are always in our heart,” Zhou said.

Speaking through an interpreter, Zhou also joked about the significance of the number 30.

“According to ancient Chinese philosopher Confucious, one should be able to establish himself by the age of 30,” he said. “That means the age of 30 is a promising age to be able to achieve successes in all respects.”

Since the sister-state relationship was signed in 1983 there have been more than 40 educational and cultural exchanges. The Hebei official called for more exchanges so the Chinese can learn more about environmental protection practices in the U.S. as well as the latest processes for manufacturing equipment.

“Both the American and the Chinese people share a kind heart, a wish for peace and a feeling for friendship,” Zhou said.

Governor Terry Branstad emphasized the “people-to-people relationships” Iowans have built with the Chinese.

“This unique and long friendship gives us a great opportunity to foster and enhance the relationships not just between Hebei and Iowa, but between the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China,” Branstad said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a letter to mark the occasion. Many of the Chinese in the audience snapped photos with their cameras and smart phones of a picture of Xi and the text of the letter that were projected on a large screen at the front of the room. Late this afternoon Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds presided over a “signing ceremony” to formalize over 20 agreements between cultural groups, education institutions and businesses in China and Iowa as well as in other parts of the U.S.

“We appreciate the long and important partnership that we have with the people of Hebei in China and hope that it will foster success for decades to come,” Reynolds said.

A nearly two-hour-long “Conference on Strategic Cooperation” featured a video touting Hebei as a prime location for U.S. investment because of its proximity to Beijing.

“Business opportunities of the ‘golden area’ are earnestly awaiting you,” the video’s announcer said.

More than 120 million people live in the Hebei Province and the video’s narrator talked of the “fortune-making” that was possible with the area’s low labor costs, large industrial zones and “business-friendly” government.

“Business opportunities of new, opening-up policies are here to impress you,” the announcer said near the end of the video.

AUDIO of opening of Conference on Strategic Cooperation, with remarks from Reynolds, reading of Xi letter, 22:00

AUDIO of video and remarks by Branstad at Conference on Strategic Cooperation, 21:00

AUDIO of remarks by Zhou at Conference on Strategic Cooperation, 31:00

Today’s events were held at the Principal Financial group headquarters in downtown Des Moines and the Chinese were encouraged to pick up packets of materials about Principal’s financial products. An evening reception is centered around the “Beautiful China” photography exhibit. The photos were taken by Bai Runzhang, the former vice chairman of the Hebei People’s Congress.