Muscatine hosts China’s vice president at friendly reunion

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A motorcade in Muscatine may look out of place. But when China's vice president comes calling, it feels right at home.

"He was completely relaxed," said Joni Axel, who helped to host the event. "I think he intentionally came here to be nostalgic and to have conversations, which is exactly what we did."

Xi Jinping requested this special reunion. These old friends first met in 1985. That's when he came to learn more about farming. This time, he's poised to become China's next president.

"It was absolutely electric," said Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins. "This gentleman has an aura about him."

The hour-long visit at the home of Roger and Sarah Lande was filled with fond recollections and Iowa hospitality. It's just the kind of friendship to bolster international relations during challenging times.

"I remember on our parting, you sent us a gift -- popcorn," said Xi through an interpreter.

This poignant reunion was a chance to go back in time while aiming for the future. Here in Muscatine, it's really like history repeating itself.

"He still has the business card you gave him in 1985," said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad.

While Xi shared warm memories of Iowa, his Iowa friends renewed a friendship with a future world leader.

"We all reminded him of our place in that old friendship," Axel said. "And he remembered everything."

As this visit came to a close, the friendship will continue. There's an invitation for a Muscatine delegation to visit him in China.

World friends from faraway places who are charting a new course for China and the U.S.