MUSCATINE — Forget ping-pong diplomacy. That’s so 1970s.
These days, Muscatine residents interested in furthering U.S.-China relations are practicing dumpling diplomacy.
After spending time with Gov. Terry Branstad this week, a group of six officials from Hebei Province in China — who will be in Iowa to celebrate 30 years of sister state relations — will head to the Muscatine home of Roger and Sarah Lande. While there Wednesday, they’ll continue to celebrate the Chinese New Year, an important holiday in Chinese culture.
It’ll be one year to the month that Xi Jinping, now general secretary of the Communist Party of China, paid a well-documented visit to the Landes and the other “Old Friends” he made during a 1985 visit to the Pearl City while he was a provincial official.
This time, the half-dozen officials from Hebei Province want to show a select crowd how to make Chinese dumplings, an important ingredient for celebrating the Chinese New Year.
The Chinese cooking lessons on Wednesday evening will be followed by a quintessential American tradition — a potluck.
“We will see how it all cooks out,” Sarah Lande said.
Tony Joseph, president of the Mayor’s Muscatine-China Initiatives Committee, said the group’s three-day stay in Muscatine will also provide local business leaders multiple opportunities to talk with the delegation “to see if we can come up with some business transactions for Muscatine and Hebei.”
Members of the delegation “want a tour like Xi Jinping took in 1985,” said Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins, who was part of Muscatine’s November 2012 delegation to China. “These people are choosing to befriend us, and it opens up a huge opportunity here.”
This month’s visiting delegation is only part of what’s shaping up to be a fruitful and educational partnership between Muscatine and the people of China, many of whom are curious about the Mississippi River community that made such an impression on the then-young agriculture official who would grow up to be their nation’s next leader.
The rate that people-to-people inroads are being made between communities in the U.S. and China is a bit dizzying, even for the mayor of the Pearl City, who acquitted himself well playing table tennis during his trip to China last year.
“It’s unbelievable. We’re moving along at a ridiculous rate of speed,” Hopkins said Friday. “We’re all pretty excited with everything going on.”