Iowa town welcomes Xi's visit

Updated: 2012-02-16 21:01

By Zhao Lei (

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Muscatine, Iowa - For the quiet, remote agricultural boomtown of Muscatine, this past Wednesday was definitely a big day, which will carve a niche for itself in its history book.

For this day, a guest from afar who had come here 27 years ago finally came back and held a warm reunion with some of his American "laopengyou", or old friends. The reunion had been very much expected by Muscatine residents and was extraordinarily followed by the media since this guest, as people all around the world had known, was Chinese Vice-President Xi Jinping.

Starting from as early as Tuesday, LED screens placed even several kilometers away from the home of Roger and Sarah Lande, which would receive the Vice-President later on Wednesday, had been displaying brief words expressing welcome for the distinguished guest. "Welcome back, Vice-President Xi Jinping," read screens in front of a McDonald's and a local TB Bank branch.

People living here made no effort to conceal their expectations and excitement about the historic revisit.

"This is a very big day for the town," said Terry Eagle, a retired fireman who now helps run the Muscatine History and Industry Center, which mainly shows the history of the local pearl industry, on Wednesday.

"China is a very big and industrious country. I wish both countries to develop good relations for trade and cultural exchanges," Eagle told China Daily. "I hope Mr Xi's visit will result in a good relationship."

Eagle's expectations were shared by Mary Wildermuth, a retired school principal and executive director of the center, and she said the small city had been filled with excitement ever since it was told that the Chinese Vice-President would revisit the place where he had spent three days in 1985.

"People were talking about his visit all these days, and I am really excited for this event," Wildermuth said, adding she was in an education delegation to China in 2008 to promote English teaching.

Business owners in Muscatine also said they had noticed that people shopping or dining in their stores or restaurants had a common topic these days: Xi's visit.

"Many people coming here asked whether he (Xi) would come to my restaurant," said an owner of a local Chinese restaurant who would only give her surname as Mu. The name of the restaurant is Peking, the former romanized name of China's capital city Beijing.

"People would stop and watch news programs when they are talking about the Chinese Vice-President's visit here," Susan Willson, a front desk worker at a Comfort Inn hotel in suburban Muscatine, told China Daily on Wednesday.

"And I heard about it on Channel 6, the KWQC channel," she said.

And for her part, in addition to the fame and attention toward the city that have come along with the Vice-President, a few more tangible benefits were also anticipated.

"I hope his visit will generate more job opportunities for the city," she said, without explaining what kind of job opportunities she or anyone else is expecting.

The public sensation also made its way to the neighboring city of Davenport, Iowa, with residents keeping a close eye on Xi's visits to Muscatine and Des Moines, the capital city of the state, which were described by Governor Terry Branstad as "a tremendous opportunity for Iowa".

"I've listened to people talk about his visit. People are excited. It is absolutely a big deal," Theresa Carmack, a circulation representative at the Rock Island Public Library in Davenport, told China Daily on Wednesday.