DES MOINES, Iowa — The lowly soybean became the unlikely star of U.S.-China diplomacy Thursday during a visit by Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping.
Xi, who is expected to become China's president next year, talked of China's need for the beans, visited a soybean farm and had officials accompanying him sign agreements for massive shipments this year. He even took a seat on a John Deere tractor.
The visit, part of a highly scripted weeklong U.S. tour, was meant to highlight how U.S. food exports such as soybeans represent a bright spot in a relationship that is otherwise mired in turmoil.
By spending two days in Iowa, Xi's message was clear: Despite disagreements between the United States and China over human rights and other major issues, at least the two countries can agree on soybeans.
Officials traveling with Xi signed agreements to buy more than 8 million tons of soybeans valued at $4.3 billion from the United States; they were working on additional deals that could result in the purchase of an additional 12 million tons.
Xi left Iowa in the afternoon and spent the rest of the day touring the Port of Los Angeles, where he continued highlighting U.S.-Chinese trade relations.