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President Xi's midwestern 'home' looks for new trade frontiers


04-07-2017 13:52 BJT

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(Source: CGTN)

As a young man, President Xi found a home in an unlikely part of the American Midwest. He briefly lived in the state of Iowa, known more for farming than international affairs. It also is a state that helped put Donald Trump in office, despite maintaining robust trade with China. So how does Iowa feel about Trump's hostility to China? 

Few pleasures break down international barriers quite like wine.

And Mason Groben's family are breaking a new frontier in the American Midwest.

President Xi Jinping drank their Iowa wine when he returned to a state he calls home as vice president in 2012.

"It was honestly a really cool thing at the time - so unexpected when he came and tried our wines - it was a real honor to be a part of that and now that he's coming back it shows again his ties to Iowa," said Mason Groben, winemaker, Jasper Winery.

Jasper Winery is leveraging that presidential seal of approval, looking to expand in China after an initial export of nearly a thousand bottles.

But wine isn't the only Iowan product China is interested in.

But Iowa's witnessing a new trend: a surge of not just Chinese money, but cultural interest. Muscatine is at the heart of it.

President Xi has made this small town on the Mississippi River an unlikely destination for Chinese visitors curious to see where he stayed briefly in the mid 1980s as a young official studying agriculture.

Businessman Glad Cheng has turned this home into a cultural center to foster China - US relations.

"At the beginning they don't understand me I also don't understand them so it takes us three years staying here," Cheng said.

And local Republicans are also adjusting to how president Donald Trump will cultivate the relationship with Xi.

"There are definite concerns about the tariffs that may be placed on China. Hopefully we can find a policy that fits our interests but at the same time doesn't alienate any economic opportunities we have with China," said Jeff Kaufman, chairman of Iowa Republicans.

Even so, a trade war with China would be problematic for Iowa, having invested so much both financially and emotionally in China.

But at Jasper Winery, the trade group set up to promote bilateral trade with Iowa is optimistic.

"All this tough talk is really President Trump setting the stage for negotiating a better deal for the trade relationship with China. And at the end of the day we want good trade deals and negotiation is a good thing," said Li Zhao, president of China Operations, China Iowa Group.

A reminder that perhaps the best way harmonise this complex yet crucial trade relationship may be over a glass.

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