In the midst of increasing tensions between the United States and China, Xi Jinping extends an invitation to dine with Iowa farmers.
The relationship between Xi and these farmers began back in 2012, when Xi, who was then vice president, expressed his enthusiasm for farming during a visit to Iowa, where Rick Kimberley, an Iowa soybean farmer, offered him a ride on his tractor. This unexpected encounter marked the beginning of an unlikely friendship.
As Xi embarks on his first visit to the U.S. in six years, amidst strained relations between the two countries, the warm welcome he receives from his “old friends” in Iowa is noteworthy.
These Iowans had previously hosted Xi during his visit to America’s heartland, offering him warmth and hospitality. The upcoming dinner in California, following Xi’s meeting with President Biden, aims to mend the damaged relationship between the two nations resulting from trade disputes, technology competition, and military tensions.
Despite the negative opinions that a majority of Americans hold about China, the Iowa farmers have maintained their respect and friendship for Xi throughout the years.
Rick Kimberley, the soybean farmer who offered Xi the tractor ride, understands the complex geopolitical issues at play and believes these should be handled by world leaders. He sees the dinner invitation as an opportunity to build stronger relationships between the two countries.
The initial meeting between Xi and the Iowa farmers took place in 2012, organized by Iowa’s economic development arm. Xi, who was then a rising political star, demonstrated his curiosity and politeness during the visit. A memorable moment was captured when Xi enthusiastically hopped on the John Deere tractor.
This picture quickly gained attention and turned the farm into a popular tourist destination for Chinese visitors. Kimberley’s techniques have also been shared with Chinese farmers, leading to the establishment of a “friendship farm” in Hebei.
The dinner invitation to the Iowa farmers signifies a shift in Xi’s approach, moving away from confrontational posturing. As tensions between the U.S. and China have escalated, Xi’s Communist Party has clashed with the United States.
However, foreign investment in China has declined, prompting Xi to seek a reset in relations. Meeting with American business leaders and soybean farmers is seen as an effort to humanize Xi and promote a more positive image.
The friendship between Xi and the Iowa farmers dates back to 1985 when a Sister States partnership between Iowa and Hebei brought a delegation, including Xi, to the U.S. Their visit aimed to learn more about U.S. food processing as China was opening up to the global market.
The Iowans shared their everyday experiences with the Chinese delegates, who were particularly fascinated by the portion sizes in American fast-food restaurants. Xi expressed how the hosts represented the embodiment of America to him.
These connections have had a lasting impact on both sides. Individuals like Gary Dvorchak, who lent his childhood room to Xi during his visit, have gone on to have careers and families in China. Despite concerns about safety in China, Dvorchak sees things from both sides and believes in fostering understanding and empathy.
In conclusion, as tensions between the U.S. and China continue to rise, Xi Jinping’s invitation to dine with Iowa farmers offers hope for improved relations. The friendship between Xi and these farmers started in 2012 and has endured through geopolitical disputes. The dinner serves as an opportunity to bridge the gap and foster stronger ties between the two nations.