A visit by President Xi helped lay down the roots for a series of flowering exchanges
Upon entry into the World Food Prize Foundation building, the first thing that catches your eyes are two Chinese characters pronounced as dadou, meaning soybean, carved on one of the four pillars at the hall. This is a courtesy to China as the home of soybeans.
In fact, it’s easy to find Chinese elements inside the building, which is located in downtown De Moines, capital city of the state of Iowa in the US Midwest.
Pictures of He Kang, former Chinese agricultural minister, and Yuan Longping, a Chinese agronomist known for his hybrid rice, are on the wall of glory among a group of those winning the World Food Prize.
Dayu, a Chinese water control hero in ancient times, has his name engraved high on the wall; a bronze plaque showing Chinese President Xi Jinping (then vice president) addressing the US-China Agricultural Symposium in the building on Feb 16, 2012 hangs in the conference hall, and nearby hangs a replica of a famous Chinese painting showing how Chinese farmers cultivate in ancient times.
Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, remembered every detail of Xi’s visit to his organization in 2012.
“This is a historic event. That connects China and the US, connects President Xi and Iowa. It was a significant moment for our organization, the World Food Prize,” he said.
“We’re proud of President Xi,” Quinn told Xinhua, “We think of him as somebody with an Iowa connection, a family member.”
Pointing to a picture of being in the tractor with Xi displayed in his house, Rick Kimberley of Kimberley Farms Inc. talked about the tractor picture story when hosting Xi at his farm in 2012.
“I asked President Xi if he wanted to get in the tractor and he was very anxious to get in,” he said.
“He was sitting here in the main seat, I was sitting on the smaller seat here right beside him ... we had a very good talk and we talked about technology, about the monitors we have here in the cab.”
“This is the home famous picture that has been in all the papers here in the United States, and I believe it was in many of the different newspapers in China,” said Rick, the fifth generation of Kimberley Farms.
There is a US cliche of “Iowa Nice”, referring to open, responsive, big hearts, welcoming attitudes, hospitality, generosity, and soften-spoken demeanor typical of the Midwesterners.
In 1985, Xi, then party secretary of Zhengding county in China’s northern province of Hebei, led a five-person delegation to Muscatine in the state of Iowa. dadou,
This “Iowa Nice” has impressed Xi so deeply that when he revisited Muscatine and met his old friends in the house of Sarah Lande in 2012, he said: “You were the first people I met in America. To me, you are America.”
Iowa Soybean Association Chief Executive Officer Kirk Leeds shared similar memories with Xinhua.
“Being in the Midwest and as an agriculture state, we have ‘Iowa nice’,” Kirk said, “We would say Xi experienced ‘Iowa nice’ back in 1985, and experienced again when he came back. We are proud of the relationship, and we have some responsibility to US-China relationship because of the special relationship with President Xi.”
With this “Iowa Nice” feeling from both sides, exchanges between China and Iowa have increased dramatically in recent years.
Iowa and Hebei province have become sister state-province; Muscatine has knotted sister-city relation- ship with Zhengding; many Chinese delegations have come to Iowa to visit Kimberley Farms; agricultural education exchanges between Iowa and China has been enhanced; Chinese tourists to Iowa has increased.
Kimberley Farms has so far built two demonstration farms in China, one in Hebei province and the other in northeast China’s Jilin province, and has established cooperation relationship with many farms in China.
Trade between China and Iowa, and the US Midwest has skyrocketed. Some 56 percent of US soybean exports go to China, and Iowa is the second largest soybean producer in the US Iowa also supplies feed and pork to China.
China’s trade with the nine states in US Midwest reached 92.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2015. Chinese enterprises have invested a total of $13 billion in US Midwest, creating nearly 30,000 jobs, according to sta- tistics provided by Chinese Consulate General in Chicago.
“So we will just build on those relationships and continue with that,” said Kirk.
“The visit of President Xi to our home meant a great deal to us and we have a great love and understanding for the people of China now,” Rick told Xinhua.
“It’s brought us to understand China and the people of China much better,” he said, “We might be in different countries but we’re all alike. We’re all human beings.”
Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation
Two characters pronounced as meaning soybean are carved on one of the four pillars at the hall of the World Food Prize Foundation building.