Chinese President Xi Jinping has recently replied to a letter from Sarah Lande, a friend of his in the U.S. state of Iowa, which represents a friendship that has lasted for 37 years.
In 1985, Xi, then party secretary of Zhengding County in north China's Hebei Province, visited the city of Muscatine and stayed with an American family. Sarah Lande, who was a member of the commission for sister counties of Iowa, received Xi and the delegation led by him.
"In '85, it was the first time he had been to the United States. At that time we didn't have many Chinese visiting Muscatine. We were excited to see him. He was excited to see us. He wanted to learn things and he was happy to come and represent his country. So there were just wonderful feelings of openness, friendship, excitement to learn about other cultures on both sides," Lande told reporters from China Media Group (CMG).
With Xi's promotion, Muscatine and Zhengding have formed a sister county relationship. The house he used to stay is now titled "Sino-U.S. Friendship House".
Then in 2012, during his visit to the United States, Xi, then Chinese vice president, went to Lande's home again to meet his old American friends after 27 years.
"When he walked in this door, he had the smile on his face, and it was like there was electricity in the air. Everyone was so excited to see him and he was so excited to see the people. Each of the old friends gave a memory that was very important to them during Xi Jinping's visit and he seemed to remember all of it. He could come on with a follow up. He said, 'I've met with President Obama, Hillary Clinton.' We said, 'Why are you coming to Iowa?' And he turned to the old friends and said, 'Because of you.' It was a wonderful experience and that's why I wish that warm feeling could continue," said Lande.
Later, Xi had meetings with visiting officials and representatives from Iowa in Beijing in March and June 2012.
On April 8, 2015, Xi met in Beijing with visiting Eleanor and Thomas Dvorchak, as well as their children. They were the host family of Xi’s stay at Muscatine in 1985.
"I remember that there is a photo of us. At that time, we finished the breakfast and you were going to bring your daughters to school and work. And we said to take a picture at the door," Xi said to Eleanor, looking at a group photo of him and the family.
"No gift was necessary. Just the gift of his time and his friendship was more than we could...," said Eleanor.
"Here is a friendship that has lasted for 30 years," he showed the photo to his wife Peng Liyuan.
On May 3, 2018, Lande's memoir "'Old Friends': The Xi Jinping-Iowa Story" was released in Des Moines, capital of Iowa.
On April 20, 2022, Lande requested Chinese Ambassador to the United States Qin Gang to bring a letter and a copy of her memoir to Xi.
"We'd hope to give these to him a couple of years ago, Now I think we're more determined. The two peoples with rich cultures, we should be working together. In fact, if we work together, the whole world will work together," said Lande.
A month later, Lande received Xi's letter. Xi encouraged Lande and other old friends in Muscatine to continue sowing the seeds of friendship and making new contributions to the friendship between the two peoples.
"My fervent hope is that our countries renew opportunities for our people's activities to flourish in the future and to bring to the people of both of our nations exciting opportunities to experience each other's culture and to learn the true value of friendship," said Lande. MS Television By reporter Charlie Zhong