A white bungalow in Muscatine, a small town in the US state of Iowa, which was proclaimed as the "Sino-U.S. friendship house," was opened to visitors Thursday.
The structure is located at 2911 Bonnie Drive of Muscatine, with a population of 20,000. The town has become well-known in China because of Chinese president Xi Jinping's two visits to it before he took office in March 2013. President Xi will pay a state visit to the United States from Sept. 22-25.
"This house was a unique witness to President Xi Jinping's friendship with the people of Muscatine, and it will certainly go down in history as a symbol of China-US friendship," said Zhao Weiping, Consul General of China's Chicago Consulate-General, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony organized to mark the opening of the house where Xi used to live.
In 1985, Xi visited Muscatine with a Chinese delegation when he worked in Zhengding in north China's Hebei province. Xi at the time lived in the Dvochaks' house and he received a warm welcome. The couple have moved to Florida after selling the house to the China Window Group, a company mainly engaged in activities for promoting Sino-American exchange.
Xi's second visit to Muscatine was in 2012, when Xi was vice president of China. On his return, he gathered with old friends and talked to them about one and a half hours instead of the original schedule of 40 minutes, according to DeWayne Hopkins, mayor of Muscatine, who spoke at the ceremony.
"We were certainly surprised when we heard that he will be the president of China," said Gary Dvochak, the son of the house's original owner.
"The house is symbolic in the two country's friendly relations, " said Gary Jr., who is now living in China.
"People-to-people diplomacy is best represented" in establishing the friendship house here in Muscatine, said Robert Kuhn, a China hand and an international corporate strategist, at Thursday's ceremony.
"Xi met with ordinary Americans, especially those that are not from big cities, like New York and Washington, and that shows a sense of common humanity, even humility," Kuhn said. "And we like that in our leaders."
According to Kuhn, both Xi's visits to Muscatine "exemplified people-to-people communication, this kind of public diplomacy which is now crucial to President Xi's foreign policy for China."