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Iowan, a retired diplomat, gets call from China’s new ambassador to U.S.

JOHNSTON — Dubuque native Kenneth Quinn, a former U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia, led the Des Moines based World Food Prize for 20 years and Quinn recently got a call from China’s new ambassador to the United States.

“It was the first call to any Americans made by the new Chinese ambassador outside of Washington, D.C.,” Quinn says.

Sarah Lande of Muscatine was also on the call. She hosted China’s president when Xi Jinping visited Iowa in 1985, back when XI was a regional ag official in China.

“I think they’re looking to say: ‘Where can we look to, how can we find some place that could maybe help restore things back to where they were,’” Quinn says, “‘back in 2012.”

Just before Xi became the leader of China’s Communist Party and China’s president, he visited Iowa and then-Governor Terry Branstad hosted a state dinner for Xi at the Capitol in Des Moines.

“He went to Muscatine, came to the State Capitol, gave a toast in which he invoked Mark Twain — the sun over the Mississippi — and all of these memories,” Quinn says. “I’d never heard a foreign leader talk about our country that way.”

Quinn says he believes China is anxious to rebuild trade relationships with Iowa and he sees Iowa businesses and ag commodity groups with the same desire.

“It is going to be one of the two most significant countries on the face of our planet, for sure, and our question to us and to them is: ‘Are we going to have a super adversarial relationship? Or can we find ways to do things together?’” Quinn says. “…To be sure we have enough food to feed 9 to 10 billion people, to deal with climate change, to prevent pandemics China and the U.S. have to work together.”

Quinn made his comments during a recent appearance on Iowa PBS,.


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