Xi basks in Iowa hospitality

2012-02-16 09:10
Sarah Lande, left, presents China's vice president, Xi Jinping a reproduction of the Muscatine Journal newspaper from 1985 when he first visited the city at the Landes home in Muscatine, Iowa. (The Quad City Times, Kevin E Schmidt, AP)

Sarah Lande, left, presents China's vice president, Xi Jinping a reproduction of the Muscatine Journal newspaper from 1985 when he first visited the city at the Landes home in Muscatine, Iowa. (The Quad City Times, Kevin E Schmidt, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Muscatine - China's leader-in-waiting Xi Jinping swapped memories and gifts on Wednesday with people who hosted him in the small Iowa city of Muscatine back in 1985, when few imagined how far and fast he and his country would rise.

The one-hour stop for tea during Xi's closely watched tour of the United States one year before he is to take the helm of the world's most populous country avoided contentious US-China issues and focused on reminiscing.

"You can't even imagine what a deep impression I had from my visit 27 years ago to Muscatine, because you were the first group of Americans that I came into contact with," he told a gathering in a Muscatine home with 17 people he met more than 25 years ago and Iowa officials.

"My impression of the country came from you. For me, you are America," he said through an interpreter.

In 1985, Xi was a feed grain official from Hebei, Iowa's sister province in China. Back then, the arid, hardscrabble province that surrounds Beijing was a far cry from the rich farmland and prosperous farms of Iowa.

Xi spent two nights during his visit at the home of Eleanor and Tom Dvorchak, staying in their son's bedroom and struggling to chat with their daughter without an interpreter.

Hard-working

"She was very curious and asked us many questions, such as whether we had seen American movies," recalled Xi - himself known to be a fan of Hollywood war films.

Eleanor Dvorchak, now aged 72, recalled Xi - "the first Chinese person I had met" - as hard-working and focused on the study tour during his time in Muscatine.

"Little did we know," she said of Xi's career trajectory.

"It's unbelievable ... and he's not finished rising," said Dvorchak, who moved with her retired executive husband to Florida. Both Dvorchaks flew back to Iowa for the reunion.

Vice President Xi, aged 58, is all but certain to take over the top slot in China's ruling Communist Party later this year and then become China's next president in March 2013.

"Sometimes when I see the news I get depressed, but when I see him and he's such a people person I have so much hope for the future," said Eleanor Dvorchak.

'Electrifying'

Iowans pride themselves on hospitality, captured by the unofficial PR slogan "Iowa Nice", while the state's early slot on the US presidential primary election voting calendar every four years gives Iowa a major role in sizing up politicians.

Both qualities were on display on Wednesday in Muscatine, a picturesque Mississippi River city of 23 000 people.

Sue Koehrsen, who lives across the street from the 19th century three-storey house of reunion hosts Sarah and Roger Lande, handed out umbrellas to Chinese and American journalists who stood hours in cold rain waiting for Xi.

"I don't think any of us who live in this neighbourhood or even in the community knew it would be this big of a deal," she said. "We should have planned a party for all these people out there and entertained them."

Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins said the figure Xi cut at Wednesday's tea gathering was "electrifying" - a word seldom applied to China's mostly stolid leaders.

"He was very pleasing to look at, very pleasing to talk to, and to shake his hand," he said of Xi.

Protests

When it came to recalling what Xi saw, did and ate in 1985, "he remembered everything", said Hopkins. "It was uncanny, the man's memory."

Xi gave his hosts souvenirs neatly wrapped in decorative Chinese paper and was given a framed copy of the front page of the May 8 1985, edition of the Muscatine Journal that featured him in a group picture.

A small group of Tibetan protesters and activists from the Falun Gong spiritual movement got into a shouting match with Chinese well-wishers down the street from Xi's tea party, with several briefly breaching the security corridor near the Lande's house before police escorted them away.

But many people in Muscatine said they saw the relationship with Xi as an honour that would be good for their city and for Iowa's economy, and perhaps even for often thorny US-China relations.

"International trade can come from it, but really I think we're promoting the whole idea of getting along with our brothers and sisters all over the world," said Mary Wildermuth, executive director of the Muscatine History and Industry Centre, a small museum on the main street of the city.

Read more on:    xi jinping  |  us  |  china
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

The craziest deaths of 2014
How to make this a sensual, sexy summer!
This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!
This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be emotionally defensive or reserved today. You need to step up today as there may be extra responsibilities to deal with....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.