Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping on Wednesday wrapped up his trip to Washington and flew to Iowa to reunite with old friends he got to know 27 years ago.
Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping (Front, C) and his old friends pose for group photos in Muscatine, a small city in Iowa, the United States, Feb. 15, 2012. Xi joined dozens of ordinary Americans for tea at a local house owned by his old friend Sarah Lande here Wednesday. Most of the participants at the tea reception were Xi's old acquaintances back from his 1985 visit, when Xi, then a local official from China's northern province of Hebei, visited Iowa as a member of an agricultural exchange delegation, and stayed with a local family in Muscatine to better understand Iowan farm life. [Lan Hongguang/Xinhua]
On Wednesday morning, Xi visited the Capitol Hill to meet with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority leader Mitch McConnell. Later, he met House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.
At midday, Xi attended a luncheon hosted by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations and the U.S.-China Business Council.
Xi said in his speech that China and the United States should increase strategic mutual trust, respect each other's core interests and major concerns, and conduct positive interactions in the Asia-Pacific.
He said China welcomes a constructive role by the United States in promoting peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific.
"At the same time, we hope the United States will respect the interests and concerns of China and other countries in this region," Xi said.
On economic cooperation, Xi called on the United States to adjust its economic policies and structure to address the China-U.S. trade imbalance.
Over the past 33 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China-U.S. trade has increased by over 180 times, reaching 446.6 billion U.S. dollars last year. The volume is expected to top 500 billion dollars this year.
China has become the fastest growing export market of the United States, Xi said, adding that U.S. exports to China have grown by 468 percent in the last 10 years.
In the final part of his speech, Xi told the audience a moving story about an American couple's affection for China.
Xi recalled how he, when serving as party chief of China's southeastern city of Fuzhou in 1992, facilitated a trip for an American lady who was trying to fulfil her late husband's wish of revisiting "Kuling", his childhood home in China.
Jeffrey Bader, former senior director for Asian affairs at the U.S. National Security Council, was among the moved listeners.
"The story about Kuling was a wonderful personal touch that the audience really appreciated. The story was very engaging, it was charming, it was substantive. I think he made a very positive impression on the audience," Bader told Xinhua.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen said: "He told a touching story that was evidence to me (he is) a man with a good heart, and wants the best for his country and for our relationships."
On Wednesday afternoon, Xi left Washington for Muscatine, Iowa, to reunite with old friends.
Xi joined a dozen of his old friends for a teatime chat at a local house in Muscatine.
Most of the participants at the tea reception were Xi's American friends back from 1985, when Xi, then a local official of China's northern province of Hebei, visited Iowa as a member of an agricultural delegation, and stayed at the homes of local residents and dined with others.
All of Xi's acquaintances wore an emblem on their coats which reads "We Muscatine Feel Great."
Sitting near a fireplace, with several Chinese paintings on the wall, Xi and his old friends recalled their memories of the days 27 years ago.
Xi recalled how his American friends invited him to have a picnic, visit hog farms and agricultural companies and tour the Mississippi River.
"I will never forget all that," Xi said.
The tea time did not last long, but it was of symbolic significance.
Thanks to the tea time, Muscatine has shot to fame among millions of Chinese watching and reading the news.
"We feel so honored," said Sarah Lande, who hosted the tea time. "We hope Xi's visits are a good example between our two peoples."
Later on the day, Xi flew to Des Moines, the capital city of Iowa, to meet with Governor Terry Branstad, who hosted a dinner in honor of Xi.
Xi and Branstad are old friends. Branstad was governor of Iowa when Xi paid his first trip to the United States and Iowa 27 years ago.
Iowa, famous for its well-developed agricultural sector, has extensive farm trade cooperation with China.
On Thursday morning, Xi is scheduled to visit a farm in Des Moines's suburbs. Then he will head for Los Angeles, California.