Isn’t Xi lovely! Iowa high school students visit China on personal ‘all expenses paid’ invitation from Jinping – 39 years after communist leader fell in love with the tiny town of Muscatine

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Students from Muscatine, Iowa, were personally invited on an all-expense paid trip to China by Xi Jinping
  • Xi fell in love with Iowa when he visited in 1985 during an agricultural tour of the United States 
  • Sarah Lande, who organized Xi’s first visit, wrote him a letter asking him to consider inviting Muscatine students

Students from the Iowa town Chinese President Xi Jinping visited nearly 39 years ago were invited on an all-expense paid trip to China by the communist leader himself – showing the town of Muscatine has a special place in his heart.

In 1985, Sarah Lande organized a group from China visiting Muscatine on an agricultural research tour of America, and one of the participants was Xi. 

The two have kept in contact over the years and Lande decided to take Xi up on his remarks at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco in November when he expressed a desire to host American students in his country.

Lande, who Xi refers to as an ‘old friend,’ wrote the president a letter asking him to include students from Muscatine in the 50,000 foreign exchange students he said he would like to host in the next five years, reported the Des Moines Register.

On January 10, the China Daily reported that Xi extended a personal invitation the students and staff from Muscatine High School to come visit China.

‘I guess there is something to “Iowa nice” because he has never forgotten us. It seems to have stuck,’ Lande said. 

Students from the Iowa town Chinese President Xi Jinping visited nearly 39 years ago were invited on an all-expense paid trip to China by the communist leader himself

Sarah Lande, who Xi refers to as an 'old friend,' wrote the president a letter asking him to include students from Muscatine in the 50,000 foreign exchange students he said he would like to host in the next five years

Sarah Lande, who Xi refers to as an ‘old friend,’ wrote the president a letter asking him to include students from Muscatine in the 50,000 foreign exchange students he said he would like to host in the next five years

On January 10, the China Daily reported that Xi extended a personal invitation the the students and staff from Muscatine High School to come visit China.

On January 10, the China Daily reported that Xi extended a personal invitation the the students and staff from Muscatine High School to come visit China.

The official invitation came three days later on January 13, and by January 22, 24 students and four staff members were on a plane to China

The official invitation came three days later on January 13, and by January 22, 24 students and four staff members were on a plane to China

Xi said he hoped ‘more young Americans will visit China, observe China with their own eyes, listen to China with their own ears and measure China with their own footsteps so as to have a glimpse of a real China.’

The official invitation came three days later on January 13, and by January 22, 24 students and four staff members were on a plane to China. 

‘Isn’t that the darndest thing. But I guess it shows that if (Xi) decides he wants something to happen, it happens. When China wants something to happen, they put their mind, soul and money behind it,’ Lande said.

On the all-expense paid trip, the group spent eight days visiting with local students, touring landmarks such as the Great Wall of China and participated in a conference for students learning the Mandarin language.

Photos posted by the Muscatine Community School District show the group did activities such as visiting Fudan University and discovered details about ancient Chinese paper and writing, and learned to make dumplings and eat Peking Duck.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco in November Xi expressed a desire to host American students in his country

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco in November Xi expressed a desire to host American students in his country

Photos posted by the Muscatine Community School District show the group did activities such as visiting Fudan University and discovered details about ancient Chinese paper and writing, and learned to make dumplings and eat Peking Duck 

Photos posted by the Muscatine Community School District show the group did activities such as visiting Fudan University and learned about ancient Chinese paper and writing

Muscatine High School student Cole Loos told Voice of America, ‘I was lucky I had my passport to go. It was very spontaneous.’

Ann Edkin, the physical education teacher who chaperoned the trio said, ‘The fact that he came here, that’s cool. But to have that ongoing relationship, it’s not just a blip, but a continuing relationship that makes it so unique and special.’

‘Actually, I’m very, very proud of them. Seems like they grew super-fast in a few days,’ said the school Mandarin teacher Heidi Kuo.

Xi fell in love with Iowa during his 1985 visit as a 32-year-old leading the Hebei Shikiazhuang Prefecture Corn Processing delegation on a 12-day visit to rural Iowa.

They toured farms and manufacturing facilities during their research into American food production systems.

They were occasionally baffled. After traveling along a four-lane highway, one of the delegation wondered how they would ever turn around and head back. 

Xi fell in love with Iowa during his 1985 visit as a 32-year-old leading the Hebei Shikiazhuang Prefecture Corn Processing delegation on a 12 -day visit to rural Iowa

Xi fell in love with Iowa during his 1985 visit as a 32-year-old leading the Hebei Shikiazhuang Prefecture Corn Processing delegation on a 12 -day visit to rural Iowa

Gary Dvorchak bought back his old family home last year for $250,000 and plans to turn it into a museum designed to celebrate the Xi visit and improve relations between the U.S. and China

Gary Dvorchak bought back his old family home last year for $250,000 and plans to turn it into a museum designed to celebrate the Xi visit and improve relations between the U.S. and China

Xi slept in a bedroom with green shag carpeting and Star Trek character cutouts on the walls. He ate eggs with a spoon because his host forgot the chopsticks. 

He enjoyed his time so much, that in 2012 when Xi returned to the U.S. as vice president, he specifically requested a visit to Iowa.

Gary Dvorchak, whose bed was used by the future Chinese president all those years ago, has bought back his old family home with a plan to use it to improve understanding between the two nuclear superpowers. 

‘Our vision is really to use it to run it as a nonprofit, and, to make it to make it a a positive presence in an otherwise very negative relationship,’ he said. 

ᴀʀᴛɪᴄʟᴇ ꜱᴏᴜʀᴄᴇ

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