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EDITORIAL: President Obama is not our king

The Gazette Editorial Board, CR Gazette –

The latest chapter in the China-Iowa story unfolds Wednesday. China’s Vice President Xi Jinping, expected to be China’s top leader by 2013, will visit our state to renew friendships that took root when he visited Muscatine and Des Moines in 1985 as part of Iowa’s Sister States program.

The reunion undoubtedly will be cordial. Gov. Terry Branstad, who met Xi the first time he was here, helped arrange the event during a trade mission to China in September.

Building on our personal and official relationships with Xi and China is important to diplomatic efforts.

And make no mistake: This visit also is about business. Both Iowa and China have much to gain by building on an already robust trade traffic. China became the No. 1 customer for U.S. farm products last year, buying 14 percent — $20 billion worth — of all ag exports. China is the world’s largest importer of soybeans and cotton, and some trade analysts expect the world’s largest country to become a major corn buyer soon.

All of which is of huge significance to Iowa.

On Wednesday, China’s Consul General Yang Guoqaing made it clear how important Iowa is to his country.

“Iowa is the heart of the farmland in the U.S.,” said Yang. “This is our most important bilateral relationship in the world. The friendship will be profound forever.”

The U.S.-China relationship certainly is not dispute-free. American complaints about unfairly high tariffs on some products and requests to relax beef import restrictions imposed because of “mad cow” disease likely will be on the agenda along with food safety and security during the first U.S.-China Agricultural Symposium set for Thursday in Des Moines. Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, now U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, helped set up the event when he visited China in November.

Relations are also strained over U.S. complaints about the giant nation’s human rights and environmental record. And the huge amount of our debt held by China is another sensitive subject.

Those issues are important. It’s also clear that both nations need each other to prosper, and Iowa’s role in strengthening the relationship in positive ways is of national importance. Iowa’s enormous productivity and trading power and our long tradition of leadership in civil rights are showcase assets that can be leveraged.

And we’re pretty friendly, too. Welcome back, Vice President Xi Jinping. Let’s talk.

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