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President meets 'old friend' in Beijing

By Wu Jiao and Pu Zhendong | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-16 07:40

Xi stresses provincial-level exchanges during meeting with US governors

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad renewed his decades-long friendship with President Xi Jinping when they met in Beijing on Monday, for the fifth time.

Calling Xi "my old friend" and shaking his hand warmly, the 67-year-old said it is exciting to celebrate Iowa's 30 years of being a sister state with Hebei province and to see the great advance in Iowa's agricultural cooperation with China.

President meets 'old friend' in Beijing

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Chinese and US governors at the the second China-US governors' forum in Beijing, April 15, 2013. [Photo/Xinhua]

Iowa and Hebei province became sisters in 1983, and in 1985 Xi, then a county-level government head in the province, visited Iowa for agricultural projects and met Branstad for the first time.

Their friendship has witnessed the long-term communication between Chinese provinces and municipalities and their counterparts in the United States.

Xi, who has always stressed Sino-US provincial and city-level exchanges with his rich working experience in local governments in China, told his guests that such cooperation between the two countries has seen "unprecedented good momentum".

China and the US complement each other in terms of trade and economies - with abundant personnel and cultural exchanges - and all these can enrich and vitalize local cooperation between the two nations, Xi said.

Branstad is joined on his visit by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell for the second China-US Governors Forum scheduled for Monday in Beijing and Tuesday in Tianjin.

The forum was set up in 2011 during former president Hu Jintao's visit to Washington.

When it was first held in the US in July that year it saw the two sides sign more than 20 cooperation agreements on trade, energy, science and technology, and environmental protection, with a total value of about $3 billion.

The forum now serves as a major platform for strengthening local cooperation between the two countries.

The US-based National Governors Association said it highlights the forum for the promotion of "peer-to-peer exchanges between US governors and Chinese provincial leaders on topics of mutual interest," among other things.

Walker told Xi Wisconsin will set up a new center in China for trade and cultural promotion, saying that he values this sub-national-level partnership between China and US.

Wisconsin's trade with China has risen from $177 million in 2000 to $1.5 billion in 2012, and it now sees China as its biggest trade partner outside North America.

The forum is the latest of its kind in facilitating local exchanges between the two nations, with more US states flocking to China for trade and Chinese firms seeking investment.

Forty-seven of the 50 US states achieved triple-digit growth in their China-bound exports between 2000 and 2010, according to figures cited by the Xinhua News Agency.

The forum comes days after Jerry Brown, governor of California, visited China and signed an understanding with leaders of six provinces and municipalities to establish a joint working group on trade and investment cooperation.

Experts say the US-China Governors Forum, and other local-level exchange mechanisms, serve as an effective platform for strengthening local corporation between the countries and ensuring ties between the world's two largest economies are not overshadowed by political issues at times.

Ni Feng, a researcher in American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said cooperation on a provincial level between China and the US stands as a new growth point as communication with the US federal government is sometimes disturbed for "ideological purposes".

"On the one hand, many of the US states are considered more active in reaching out to China as they are subject to resolving a number of local issues like unemployment and debts," Ni said.

"On the other, huge amounts of Chinese capital ... are seeking overseas opportunities."

Ni said that "especially against the backdrop of the financial crisis, it is urgent that both sides embrace more government cooperation at local levels to widen channels of communication and fortify economic interdependence.

"One pragmatic approach at the moment is that the US takes more investment from China."

Li Haidong, a professor from the Institute of International Relations at China Foreign Affairs University, said Washington's willingness to develop an in-depth and multi-dimensional relationship with the new Chinese administration can be seen in the frequent visits of US state leaders and governors.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew visited China and met Xi and other Chinese leaders within a month of Xi becoming president in March.

On Saturday, Kerry called for more Chinese investment in the US after meeting a series of Chinese leaders during his brief visit to Beijing.

"One of the things we discussed was the possibility of China investing in infrastructure in the US, since the US has huge infrastructure needs, like water and transportation projects", Kerry told reporters before leaving for Tokyo.

In 2012, China and the US, as the world's two biggest economies and each other's second-largest trading partner, saw bilateral trade of $484.7 billion, nearly 200 times the amount when they first established diplomatic relations.

By the end of 2012, cumulative US direct investment in China stood at $70 billion, and China's cumulative outbound direct investment in the non-financial sector in the US reached $10 billion.

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