Chinese VP to visit Iowa to discuss agriculture

Source: Randi Reeder • Iowa State Daily  • Posted: Tuesday, February 14, 2012

China’s Vice President Xi Jinping — the likely successor to the country’s presidency within the year — is meeting President Barack Obama at the White House on Tuesday to help resolve differences related to business and agriculture.

Later in the week, Xi will visit Iowa to attend a first-ever U.S.-China agricultural symposium on Thursday in Des Moines. Secretary of Agriculture and former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack developed this forum for Xi and other Chinese and U.S. officials to discuss agriculture, food security, food safety and other related topics. Xi is also scheduled to visit California.

Since the current president, Hu Jintae, must retire within the year, this trip to the U.S. is in an effort to turn over a new leaf with China and U.S. relations, which are critical to the future with the next president.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad hopes the media coverage of Xi’s closely watched visit to Iowa will encourage Chinese citizens to support economic and human right reforms in their country.

Besides trying to have better agriculture ties with Iowa, the reason for Xi’s visit is a recap of his trip to the United States back in the late 1970s when he stayed with a Muscatine family.

Relations with China are crucial because the country is now the No. 1 customer of U.S. agriculture products, including three of Iowa’s top items— soybeans, corn and pork. In 2010, China was the fourth-largest customer for Iowa trailing only Canada, Mexico and Japan for agricultural products accounting for approximately 6 percent of the value of all exports. Currently, soybeans have been the leading export.

According to, China is now the largest buyer of U.S. soybeans, while becoming an increasingly important exporter of U.S. corn and pork. Farm exports are up from $18.6 billion in 2010. China now represents about one-fifth of American sales of goods and does not show any sign of slowing down.