BEIJING, July 26, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — As a businessman shuttling back and forth between China and the US, Gary Dvorchak accepted to give an exclusive interview to the Global Times, when he returned to his home in Muscatine, a tranquil city on the banks of the Mississippi River in the central US state of Iowa, at a house located at No. 2911 Bonnie Drive.
Nearly 40 years ago, when a visiting Chinese official spent the night in No. 2911 in Dvorchak’s bedroom while he was away at college, no one imagined that the visitor would one day become the Chinese president.
This is believed to be Xi Jinping’s first trip outside China and perhaps his first experience of staying with an American family, according to Xinhua. He was then a young and promising junior official, Party secretary of Zhengding County in China’s northern province of Hebei. He led a five-person agricultural delegation to Muscatine, Iowa.
At that time, in Dvorchak’s house, Xi was hosted in a room that was decorated for elementary schoolboys, with a mini exhibition of American football wallpapers and Star Trek models.
Currently, Dvorchak hopes to expose more people to the atmosphere of friendly exchanges between China and the US. He is in the process of redecorating the house, which is scheduled to open to the public in October or November, “creating what we think will be a very professional and heartwarming symbolic project that benefits China-US relations,” Dvorchak told the Global Times.
“The friendship between the Chinese and American people deserves to be told more positively,” he stressed.
Old house, new chapter
“It’s [the house] a museum now, but our intention is probably to much more professionally tell the story of China in a very positive way, and promote people-to-people relationships between the American and Chinese citizens,” Dvorchak said.
Dvorchak pointed out that Xi’s visit in 1985 changed the course of his family’s life forever.
Muscatine is a very small town in Iowa, and in 1985, a visit by a Chinese delegation was an extraordinary event, Dvorchak noted, “It was on the front page of our hometown newspaper, and everyone had very vivid memories of Xi’s visit.”
The visit seemed to have also impressed Xi. Almost 27 years later, during a visit to the US as vice president, Xi had one personal request on his trip: A stop in Muscatine to visit his “old friends,” including Dvorchak’s parents.
“Life goes on and there were no ways to stay in touch as there was no internet back then. But so many people in Muscatine were very happy to learn of how President Xi has governed and China has become prosperous step by step,” he said.
In 2013, Dvorchak worked for a company in Los Angeles that had an opening for a senior staffer in Beijing. Subsequently, Dvorchak moved to Beijing with his family. His childhood home was purchased by a Chinese businessman and transformed into the “Sino-US Friendship House,” becoming the first memorial museum in the US dedicated to the theme of China-US friendship.
“But when the COVID-19 pandemic came, people weren’t traveling, and the house gradually lost its original splendor,” noted Dvorchak, who had been in negotiations with the previous owner of this house for about three years, in a bid to buy the house again.
“We finally struck a deal at the beginning of this year and then closed the transaction. So my family now owns the house again,” he said proudly.
The Global Times found that the house is now filled with news clippings of China and the Chinese leader.
“We want school children, as one example, to come on a field trip; come through the house and learn about China and learn about what China is like now and all the great things that China has contributed to human civilization,” he said.
More active efforts needed
Dvorchak has been living in China for a decade now.
“It’s been absolutely wonderful to experience how that the country is fantastic. We’ve had such a warm welcome. So I can’t say enough good things about China and the experience that we have had,” Dvorchak said.
In recent days, Dvorchak and others from Iowa visited Kuliang in Fuzhou, Fujian Province and the Xiongan New Area and Zhengding county in Hebei. There, they marveled at the rapid changes in China, the unique path of modernization that China is firmly following, and were even more touched by the friendship between the people of China and the US.
“I would say the main thing I have gained is a lot of great friendships. In Kuliang we witnessed the warmth and the happiness of reunions between Chinese and American people,” said Dvorchak.
When a group of former Fuzhou residents crossed mountains and oceans to return to this beloved place, they were looking to rekindle the feelings they had when they first lived in China, he noted.
“And when we went to our sister province, Hebei, to see people we have seen many times before we have shared great experiences with. Such friendship is playing an active role in promoting peaceful exchanges and interaction between the two superpowers in the world today,” he said.
Dvorchak pointed out that old friends from Iowa are clearly aware that through President Xi’s career, even when he was visiting Iowa in 1985, people-to-people exchanges have been a high priority for him.
Dvorchak said he regrets that many Americans base their opinions on what they hear on television, and from much media and political hype with negative information about China. “I always just tell people to turn off the TV, just look at your daily experience, look at the Chinese friend you have that is gonna make you realize that the negative view is not reflective of reality.”
When Xi went to Muscatine in 1985, Dvorchak’s parents gave him a parting gift of popcorn, and he left behind Chinese liquor in return. Currently, Dvorchak says he wishes to do more.
“I and the other people from Iowa have been involved [in China-US friendship] for a long time, and are working on the project of the new edition of the Sino-US Friendship House. We’re all working on it together. It’s just one little house in the middle of Iowa, but it’s pushing back and it’s saying, ‘hey, let’s bring positive energy to the US-China relationship,'” he said.
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SOURCE Global Times