Sarah Lande (1st L) and Wanxiang America Corporation President Ni Pin (C, Front) sign the agreement of the "Sarah and Roger Lande Scholars" Program in Muscatine, Iowa, the United States, on April 20, 2022. (Xinhua/Xu Jing)
China's Wanxiang Group earlier this week renewed its scholars program with Muscatine, a city on the western bank of the Mississippi River in the U.S. state of Iowa, with Chinese Ambassador to the United States Qin Gang as a witness.
The "Sarah and Roger Lande Scholars" Program, signed on Wednesday, will act as a strong motivator for the Muscatine School District and Muscatine Community College students to choose Chinese as their first foreign language and to continue their Chinese language study beyond the district's "world language" requirement.
With 500,000 U.S. dollars in aid from Wanxiang, students from the Muscatine High School and Muscatine Community College may go to China for six weeks to study Chinese and get a glimpse of Chinese people's life and Chinese culture in the summers of 2023 and 2024.
"Muscatine is a symbol of friendship between China and the United States," said Qin.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, then party secretary of Zhengding County in China's northern province of Hebei, led a five-person delegation to Muscatine in 1985 and stayed with a local family for two days.
The seeds of friendship Xi planted 37 years ago have taken root, blossomed and borne fruit in the state of Iowa, Qin wrote in the guestbook after visiting the house where Xi has stayed, saying his trip there was a trip of "paying tribute to the friendship."
Qin is visiting Illinois, Iowa and Minnesota in the U.S. Midwest, and Muscatine is his first leg in Iowa. "One of my most important jobs is to take care of this special friendship, and let the friendship be passed from generation to generation," he said.
"So we talk about how to increase exchanges between students and how to make Muscatine a more attractive place of friendship to people of other places," he added.
Agricultural cooperation between China and the United States has developed very fast. Qin hopes that through his visit, China-U.S. cooperation in the area of agriculture will be strengthened.
Before signing the agreement named after her and her husband for their contribution to a strong China-U.S. relationship, Sarah Lande stressed the importance of having more opportunities for people, young people in particular, from China and the United States to get together. "When the people get together, it seems like the barrier comes down," she said.
Wanxiang used to sign a "Wanxiang Scholars" Program with the City of Muscatine, under which over 20 students from the Muscatine School District and Muscatine Community College went to China in 2017 and 2018 for immersion studies of Chinese.
Thirty-five-year-old Jennifer Miranda Zamora and 25-year-old Angellea Ibanez, then students at the Muscatine Community College, went to China in 2018 as "Wanxiang Scholars." Before the trip, all they knew about China was that it was home to the Great Wall. The six-week stay in China enriched their knowledge.
"It was amazing. It (China) was very rich in culture. It's not really what I pictured. It was a lot more," Ibanez said. "I felt like we had a lot more similarities than differences (with the Chinese)."
Ibanez told Xinhua that they also learned about the politics and economy in China and that she would definitely consider visiting China again.
"It's very obvious that those (kinds of) communication or kinds of programs will help build a bridge to our future," said Ni Pin, president of Wanxiang America Corporation, a wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of Wanxiang Group Company based in Hangzhou, China.
The renewed program will have a funding of 500,000 dollars, up from the total grant of 300,000 dollars for the program in 2017-2018, which is meant to support more Muscatine students to go to China.