China’s Vice President Xi Jinping speaks at the home of Roger and Sarah Lande (2nd L) in Muscatine, Iowa February 15, 2012. Xi joked about receiving a gift of popcorn during his first visit to Muscatine in 1985.
The most important word in Chinese is 关系 guanxi. I’d tell you how to pronounce it but I’d be wrong. I was reading the Global Times in a Guangzhou Mai Dong Lao (McDonald’s) which stated that the three most important words in China were 关系 guanxi – it’s not what you know it’s who know, 面子 miànzi – “face” harmony matters most. So we would not embarrass others in public by any way, even when someone make mistakes. One of my ESL students asked to redo her presentation in front of the class because she “lost face” (self-respect). The third word is 客气 kèqi – be nice, be humble, you don’t have to bow like the Japanese but treat everyone as an equal.
When Jane Marie and I visited her relatives in Muscatine just after Xi Jinping took over in 2012, we congratulated then on having 关系 guanxi with the world’s second most powerful leader. Since then Obama rubbed China and Xi Jinping’s 面子 miànzi – “face” in the ground by calling them ‘free riders.’ That’s why China returned the ‘O’s bad 客气 kèqi by making him get off the back door of Air Force One.
This week Muscatine’s good 客气 kèqi and 关系 guanxi came home to roost when Trump tapped as ambassador to Beijing Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, whose friendship with Xi Jinping goes back to the Chinese leader’s visit to Iowa in 1985.
The New Yorker recently profiled Chinese President Xi Jinping,
In one section, the author, Evan Osnos, writes about the time Xi, then an up-and-coming Communist Party member, spent two weeks in rural America in 1985. For what’s believed to have been his first trip outside of China, Xi led an animal-feed delegation in Muscatine, Iowa, where he toured farms and visited rotary clubs.
Jane Marie is breaking out her old Mao uniform and highlighting her Norway Rotary exchange student creds.
For a few nights, the Chinese politician stayed with Eleanor and Thomas Dvorchak. Xi slept in the bedroom — complete with football-themed wallpaper and Stark Trek action figures — of the family’s son, then away at college.
Eleanor had this to say about Xi
He was looking out the window, and it seemed like he was saying, ‘Oh, my God,’ and I thought, What’s so unusual? It’s just a split-level,” she said. Xi did not introduce himself as a Communist Party secretary; his business card identified him as the head of the Shijiazhuang Feed Association. In 2012, on a trip to the U.S. before becoming top leader, he returned to Muscatine, to see Dvorchak and others, trailed by the world press. She said, “No one in their right mind would ever think that that guy who stayed in my house would become the President. I don’t care what country you’re talking about.”
Read the full story in The New Yorker
Eleanor also described the Chinese politician as “humble. “He did not complain,” she told The New York Times. “Everything, no matter what, was very acceptable to him.”
Sarah Lande, the woman pictured above in red, organized Xi’s trip as part of a sister arrangement with the Chinese province where he worked, according to NPR. Since then, Xi has had periodic stints in the United States. His daughter attends Harvard University, and he returned to Muscatine in 2012, then as China’s vice president.
Upon reuniting with the Dvorchaks, and other “old friends,” on his second trip, Xi told the Muscatine Journal: “You were the first group of Americans I came into contact with,” he said. “To me, you are America.”