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Muscatine visit will be like old times for China’s vice president

East will meet West in the heartland on February 15. That’s when China’s vice president will make a brief stop in Muscatine.

History will repeat itself at a pre-Civil War era home in Muscatine. That’s when Sarah Lande will welcome China’s Vice President Xi Jinping. She coordinated his previous visit to Muscatine in 1985.

“He seemed curious, a real leader,” she recalled. “A little bit sophisticated. He knew where he was going.”

Back then, he came to learn about hog farming. He met families, farmers and business leaders, forging a bond that lasted 27 years. It’s nostalgia and international relations from the heartland.

“He had a warmth about him when he received the hospitality of Iowans,” she said.

Muscatine is buzzing over this place on the world stage. Slated to be a one-hour visit with folks he met in 1985, preparations began weeks ago. A city that does global business all the time feels at home.

“Iowa is an important factor in the world,” said Bill Phelan, president of the Greater Muscatine Chamber of Commerce & Industry. “We’re not just a small community or a small state in the middle United States.”

It will be unusual and informal. China’s future president remembers Muscatine fondly.

“The fact that he would come back, and that he remembered being with our people here, I was excited for Muscatine, for Iowa, for the world,” Lande said.

The Muscatine reunion will renew old friendships as it helps to cement the bond both countries share with agriculture.

China is the top spot for U.S. agriculture exports. In 2011, that added up to $20 billion and supported more than 160,000 American jobs.

“We’re the number one state for soybeans,” said Virgil Schmitt, a field agronomist with Iowa State Extension. “We’re the number one state for corn and hog production in the country. I think it’s really appropriate that he comes here.”

It all comes back to a home where East met West so long ago.

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