Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping wrapped up his trip to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and flew to Iowa to reunite with old friends he met on a prior U.S. visit 27 years ago.
Before leaving Washington for the American Midwest, though, Xi visited Capitol Hill to meet with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Later, he met House Speaker John Boehner.
At midday, Xi attended a luncheon hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the U.S.-China Business Council.
On Wednesday afternoon, Xi joined a dozen Iowans for a teatime chat at a family’s home in Muscatine.
Most participants at the tea reception first met Xi in 1985, when Xi, then a local official of Hebei Province, visited Iowa as a member of an agricultural delegation and stayed at the homes of local residents.
Xi’s Iowa acquaintances wore badges bearing the town’s slogan, “Feeling Great.”
Sitting at a fireplace near several Chinese paintings hung on the wall, Xi and his old friends shared memories from his prior visit.
Xi recalled how his American friends invited him to have a picnic, visit hog farms, tour agricultural companies and see the Mississippi River.
“I will never forget all that,” Xi said.
The tea reception did not last long, but held symbolic significance. Thanks to Xi’s visit, Muscatine has shot to fame among millions of Chinese watching and reading the news.
“We feel so honored,” said Sarah Lande, who hosted the reception. “We hope Xi’s visits are a good example for citizens of our two countries.”
Later in the day, Xi flew to Iowa’s capital of Des Moines to meet with Governor Terry Branstad.
Xi and Branstad are old friends. Branstad was governor of Iowa during Xi’s prior U.S. visit. Branstad led the state from 1983 to 1999 and was re-elected governor in January 2011.
Iowa is famous for its well-developed agricultural sector and has extensive farm trade cooperation with China.
On Thursday morning, Xi was scheduled to visit a farm in Des Moines’s suburbs. Then he will head for Los Angeles, California.