Xiong'an trip impresses Xi's Iowa friends

By Zhang Yunbi (China Daily) 08:27, August 04, 2023

Visitors emphasize need to pass down goodwill, increase youth exchanges

The futuristic configuration and construction efficiency of the Xiong'an New Area in Hebei province highly impressed a group of guests from the US state of Iowa who visited the area recently.

The group's members — some of whom have been acquaintances of President Xi Jinping's since the 1980s — visited the province from July 1 to 3. This year marks the 40th anniversary of Iowa's sisterhood with the province in North China.

In 1985, Xi, then secretary of the Communist Party of China Zhengding county committee in Hebei, led a delegation to Iowa for a two-week visit that kicked off a slew of memorable interactions between the two nations in the decades to come.

Last month, some of those Iowa friends got the chance to visit Xiong'an on their first trip to Hebei since the outbreak of COVID-19 three years ago interrupted travel.

On April 1, 2017, China announced plans to establish Xiong'an, a new economic zone about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing, to relieve Beijing of functions not essential to its role as the nation's capital and to advance the coordinated development of the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region.

"The size of the buildings and the green space show that a lot of thought went into making the city of the future and how people want to live," said Gary Dvorchak, managing director of Blueshirt Group Asia.

His parents are Eleanor and Thomas Dvorchak, who hosted Xi during his 1985 visit to Muscatine, Iowa. The Dvorchaks' house has been designated by Muscatine as the Sino-US Friendship House, which greets visitors to the small city.

The Iowa guests visited Xiong'an's center for planning and exhibition and the comprehensive service center of Xiong'an's startup area. They listened to briefings by local officials about the city's overall planning.

They also witnessed the progress of infrastructure construction and the building of a smart city in Xiong'an's Rongdong area. In addition, they toured the scenic Baiyangdian Lake to view the lucid waters there and the progress made in ecological preservation and restoration.

Recalling the tour in Xiong'an, Dvorchak said the city is "very modern and forward thinking", with a scale that is highly livable.

"We're all looking at it saying, boy, it would be nice to live here," he added.

The US guests, including Rick Kimberley, a farmer at Kimberley Family Farm in Iowa, also visited Tayuanzhuang village in Zhengding county to witness how China's ambition for rural vitalization is being translated into reality.

Yin Jiping, the village's Party chief, briefed them on plans for development of the village, including the blueprint for the agriculture and tourism sectors and social services for senior citizens.

Kimberley said, "The development of the agricultural industry has been something that you can be proud of."

In February 2012, Xi, then China's vice-president, visited Kimberley's farm and rode a tractor with him.

Kimberley added that he looks forward to continuing discussions with Chinese friends about agriculture, the importance of sustainable agriculture, and how to provide products in a safe, secure and sustainable way.

Bonds go on

Luca Berrone, a board member of Iowa Sister States and a businessman, helped arrange the schedule for Xi's five-person delegation during the Iowa visit in 1985.

"I considered the five people from the 1985 visit not only my friends but my brothers, and they have allowed me to broaden my vision of global culture and friendship," he said.

Xi's visit in 1985 "cemented the foundation of the 40-year friendship between Iowa and Hebei province", Berrone said.

"The two weeks I spent together with President Xi and the other members of the delegation proved to be a life-changing experience for me, and continue to be a source of inspiration for improving relationships."

Guests such as Berrone have voiced their hopes and personal willingness to work to enhance subnational-level contacts and exchanges between the two largest economies in the world and to help improve the two nations' strained relations.

"We must continue to invest in friendship, because we cannot ever take it for granted.… Friendship can be hard work and not just idle talk," Berrone said.

Boosting networking between the younger generations of the two countries is also high on their agenda.

During their Hebei trip, the US guests visited Shijiazhuang Foreign Language School and attended a dialogue with students and faculty members there.

At the dialogue, students asked questions about the friendship between the peoples of China and the US, global agricultural issues, and exchanges between young Chinese and Americans.

Kenneth Quinn, former president of the World Food Prize Foundation and former US ambassador to Cambodia, responded to the students' questions.

Quinn hosted Xi in 1985, and in 1980, he helped arrange a tour of Iowa for a Chinese delegation headed by Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun, who was then governor of Guangdong province.

Quinn, a keen participant in academic contacts with Chinese scholars and students, underlined the necessity to pass friendship down to future generations.

"It's so important to have these exchanges for young students, and some exchanges allow Chinese students to come and spend a year going to high school someplace in the United States," Quinn said.

"When you're there for a year and you become part of a high school, it really sends them to connect with someone, makes them feel enough a part of America that a bond is formed. And I think it would be the same sending Americans to China, and feeling those attachments," he added.

Dan Stein, chairman of the Muscatine-China Initiatives Committee, said that some of the students from the Shijiazhuang school will visit Iowa during the fall, and some US students will come to China.

"The more people go back and forth, the more we can learn about each other and then find out more opportunities to cooperate together," he said.

Luo Yu and Stephanie Stone contributed to this story.

(Web editor: Zhong Wenxing, Liang Jun)


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