Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. Qin Gang. (Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn)
The Chinese ambassador to the U.S. said that the city of Muscatine, Iowa, along with the state's long history of friendship and cooperation with China are to be cherished.
Ambassador Qin Gang and his team stopped by the Sino-American Friendship House in Muscatine, Iowa, on Wednesday. The house originally belonged to Tom and Eleanor Dvorchak, and President Xi Jinping stayed there during his visit to Iowa in 1985, when he was Party secretary of Zhengding county, Hebei province.
The house later became the first U.S.-China friendship-themed memorial in the U.S..
Qin was warmly welcomed by Luca Berrone, who has known President Xi for many years, and Dan Stein, chairman of the Muscatine Commission on Cooperation with China. Berrone led Qin on a tour of the house, where the news images and documentaries of President Xi's two visits played on the large screen.
The envoy wrote in the visitor book: "37 years ago, President Xi planted in Iowa the seed of friendship between Chinese and Americans. Today, that seed has taken root, sprouted, blossomed, and born fruits. Let's work together to plant more seeds of friendship between the two nations."
After visiting the house, the envoy met with Xi's old friends Sarah Lande, Luca Berrone, Joni Axel, Dan Stein, Tony Joseph and Amy Barker at the Merrill Hotel in Muscatine.
Qin conveyed the cordial greetings and good wishes of President Xi and his wife, Professor Peng Liyuan, to their old friends in Iowa.
The ambassador noted that the more challenging the U.S.-China relationship is, the more both sides must cultivate trust. He said that with a joint effort, a move to deepen and strengthen understanding, friendship and cooperation would be "unstoppable".
Qin also said that Iowa has closely engaged with China, especially with Hebei province. He expressed the hope of promoting educational and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, especially among the younger generation.
Lande, Berrone and other "old friends" fondly recalled the story of their acquaintance with President Xi and expressed how they cherish the sincere friendship with him, the first lady and the Chinese people.
They hope that if U.S.-China relations remain stable, more Chinese people would come here for tourism, and more Chinese companies would invest after the pandemic. They also expressed hope that the impact of the pandemic could be overcome to build a friendship through face-to-face communication.
Lande presented her memoir Old Friends: The Story of Xi Jinping and Iowa, published in 2017, and a letter to President Xi.
Qin expressed his gratitude to Lande, saying that people should keep renewing a new chapter of friendship between the peoples to make this book of friendship "thicker and thicker".
Qin and the "old friends" then met with reporters. He was scheduled to attend the U.S.-China High-Level Agricultural Cooperation Forum on Thursday.
Friendship is the best vaccine against the current "political virus", Qin said during the news conference.
Qin also said he was encouraged by the observations during his trip.
"This is a trip paying tribute to friendship. As ambassador, one of my jobs is to protect this friendship and to pass the torch from generation to generation," he said. "Let's work together to spread more friendships from Muscatine to other places because only through friendship can we get to know each other and see how the other side really is."
Stein, chairman of the Muscatine-China Initiatives Committee, announced that Pin Ni, chairman of the Wanxiang America Corp, based in Chicago, pledged a combined $500,000 in monetary and in-kind donations to the Sarah and Roger Lande Scholars Program.
The grant will help fund two trips to Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, for students from Muscatine High School and Muscatine Community College over a period of two years.
Wanxiang has helped fund three trips for Muscatine students, with the most recent one in 2018.