Chinese Ambassador visits Muscatine, exchanges lauded
by Margaret Hurlbert
April 20, 2022

MUSCATINE, Iowa–37 years after now President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping’s first visit to Muscatine as part of an agricultural delegation, citizen diplomacy between Muscatine and China continues. April 20, Chinese Ambassador Qin Gang visited Muscatine to celebrate the city’s long history of exchanges with China and laud newly announced plans for future exchanges as the COVID-19 pandemic abates.

During his visit to Muscatine, Qin saw the Sino-U.S. Friendship house, originally Tom and Eleanor Dvorchack’s home, where Xi stayed while in Muscatine. He also met with several of the people who played an influential role in Xi’s visit, “Old Friends” Joni Axel, Sarah Lande, and Luca Berrone as well as the Muscatine-China Initiatives Committee. Lande presented him with a signed copy of her book, “‘Old Friends’: the Xi Jinping Iowa Story,” published in 2017.

Qin then met with members of the media to discuss the long and positive relationship Muscatine has had with China through exchanges and his hope to encourage future exchanges. Qin stopped in Muscatine as part of his first trip through the Midwest. Qin’s trip includes stops in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota that will allow him to identify opportunities for China to cooperate with the United States on agricultural issues.

Qin’s observations during his trip encouraged him that relations could improve between the United States and China, particularly if citizens of each country could get to know each other: “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.”

After Qin and the Muscatine “Old Friends” finished answering questions, Dan Stein, a member of the Muscatine-China Initiatives Committee, announced that Pin Ni, the Chairman of the Wanxiang America Corporation based in Chicago, had pledged a combined $500,000 in monetary and in kind donations to the Sarah and Roger Lande Scholars Program, which will conduct two trips to China for students from Muscatine High School and Muscatine Community College over a period of two years, once international travel restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic have lifted sufficiently. In the past, Wanxiang helped fund three trips for Muscatine students, with the most recent one taking place in 2018. Pin signed an agreement with Lande, publicly cementing the partnership.

Pin welcomed the new exchange opportunity and believed it could continue to help young people develop positive relationships with the people of China. “It’s very obvious these programs are a bridge to our future,” he observed.

Jennifer Zamora and Angelica Ibanez, two Muscatine Community College graduates who went on the 2018 trip to China, also felt pleased with the opportunity for more students to have eye-opening experiences like they did. Zamora recalls: “It was very rich in culture. It was not what I expected–it was more. I think we had a lot more similarities than differences.”

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