Rick Kimberly (second left), an owner of the Kimberly Farm in Iowa, talks to a delegation of leading Chinese think tanks on his farm on Sunday, June 11,2017. Members of the delegation included Zhao Qizheng (right third), former Director of the Information Office of China's State Council, Guo Weimin (left third), Deputy Director of the Information Office of the State Council, and Wei Jianguo (right first), Vice Chair of China Center for International Economic Exchanges. [Photo: China Plus/Lv Xiaohong]
Far from their familiar settings of meeting rooms and conference venues, ten researchers from five different Chinese think tanks found themselves strolling into corn fields and meeting with the owners of the Kimberly Farm in the midwestern state of Iowa.
Their current tour of the US midwest is focused on meeting with the everyday people who serve as the backbone of China-US trade, particularly in the agricultural sector.
"In previous times, we'd most likely just sit down with people inside an office in a salon-like setting. But that doesn't really help us understand the everyday problems. So with our visit here, I feel like we have found effective ways to address certain issues," said Wei Jianguo, Vice Chair of China Center for International Economic Exchanges and former Deputy Minister of Commerce of China.
Grant Kimberly (left), an owner of the Kimberly Farm in Iowa, talks to Chinese think tank researchers on Sunday, June 11,2017 on his farm. [Photo: China Plus/Lv Xiaohong]
The Kimberly Farm is situated around 50 kilometers northeast of Iowa's state capital, Des Moines. This is the same farm then-Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited in 2012. The award-winning farm has served as a demonstration site for Iowa's agriculture sector, receiving visitors from around the world.
The arrival of the Chinese experts has also given farm owner Grant Kimberly an opportunity to learn more about China.
"I'd like to ask a question, too. The next generation of people in agriculture in China – I know that's a difficult lifestyle. But is there a way to continue to attract young people to get into the field of agriculture? Is there programs or goals to do that in the future in China?" asked Kimberly.
Beyond touring the farm, the Chinese experts will also participate in a forum with their US counterparts at the World Food Prize Foundation in Des Moines. Topics of discussion there will include China-US relations, bilateral trade and regional exchanges.
J. Stapleton Roy, a former US Ambassador to China, said the tour of the American heartland is a new step in trying to expand exchanges among Chinese and US think tanks.
"I think it's very important for think tanks to not simply sit in the capital cities or in our major university towns and think in an ivory tower about the relationship. They also need to get out and visit two great countries," said Roy, also Founding Director Emeritus of the Kissinger Institute on China and the US at the Wilson Center in Washington DC.
Roy said stronger ties in agriculture are increasingly important, as it remains a critical industry in both China and the US.