November 20, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO – On Thursday, some “old friends” of President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people gathered in San Francisco to celebrate their enduring friendship with China, with the reunion inspiring hope and another boost to relations.
“Seeing our old friend again and communicating — it was something that gives us great hope,” Rick Kimberley, who runs a farm in the state of Iowa, said on Thursday.
The “old friend” he referred to is Xi, who is visiting San Francisco for a China-US Summit meeting and the 30th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Economic Leaders’ Meeting. Xi hosted some of his old friends, along with new ones, at a dinner on Wednesday.
“At the reception we were able to meet President Xi personally, say a few words, and shake his hand. (It was) very exciting for us,” said Kimberley.
In 2012, Xi, who was vice-president at that time, visited Kimberley’s farm, which grows corn and soybeans, during a tour of the US.
“We have so many challenges in the world, and the speech that President Xi gave last night gave us hope. Also, the commerce minister from the United States gave a nice speech and it is a good start,” he said.
Kimberley added, “We are the most important countries that will keep this world safe and prosperous”.
He also watched the news about the summit between US President Joe Biden and President Xi on Wednesday and called the meeting “very important” because it is “a good coming-together meeting”.
“It will develop from here. We have to keep the lines of communication open. People-to-people exchanges are the foundation of the friendships and relationships,” he said.
President Xi’s friendship with US people began in 1985 when he first traveled to Iowa as part of an agricultural delegation from China’s Hebei province. He stayed in Muscatine, a small rural community.
Sarah Lande, a Muscatine resident who worked at Iowa’s Sister State organization in the 1980s helped coordinate Xi’s visit in 1985, and in 2022 she wrote a book about her experience titled “Old Friends”: The Xi Jinping-Iowa Story.
She attended Wednesday’s dinner and said she was impressed by”President Xi’s warm smile and his inspirational words that if we have exchanges in all areas — education, sports, arts and culture, we’ll learn to trust and respect each other”.
“The world and our Earth really need the bright minds and the big hearts of our peoples, and the leaders of the two largest economies to work together to solve the critical issues of the day — our climate, food security, and conflicts around drugs,” Lande said.
Her community’s friendship with the Chinese side has led to fruitful achievements, including a demonstration farm in Hebei province and a scholarship program for Muscatine students to study in China.
“That was a wonderful thing. Now, in our community, we have 120 kids taking the Chinese language. I think the youth are our future and they’re getting a good start here,” said Lande.
Harry Moyer, a 103-year-old Flying Tigers veteran, and John Easterbrook, grandson of the late US General Joseph Stilwell, also met Xi and said it was “gratifying” that Chinese people still remember their old friends. The Flying Tigers fought courageously in South China alongside the Chinese people during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).
“I feel satisfied — (to hear) his remarks and his encouragement to spread to the next generations the story of the Flying Tigers and the cooperation between America and China,” Moyer said.
Easterbrook said: “I was very pleased yesterday to be able to personally thank President Xi for replying to my letter, which expressed appreciation for his support for people-to-people activities and outlining what the Stilwell family has been doing in this area for the past several decades.
“President Xi’s support for people-to-people activities between the Chinese people and the American people is most gratifying,” he said, adding that family members participated in the commemoration of Stilwell’s 140th birthday in China in August.
Elyn MacInnis, a senior adviser and lead researcher of the Kuliang tourism and culture research association, said she appreciated Xi’s remarks at the dinner because he stressed that people-to-people exchanges were the foundation of relationships.
“It’s the small things that you do that can add up to a big thing. So if you do small things for friendship, it helps the big picture. And I think even just a regular American person can do small things of friendship, and that will change the world,” MacInnis said.