where many just see a sleepy Midwestern town surrounded by cornfields and food-processing factories, Glad Cheng sees a grand opportunity.
But the city has an unusual story that dates back to 1985: three decades before becoming the Chinese strongman president, the then-unknown Xi Jinpeng stayed in a two-story house and immersed in American culture by spending a few nights in the bedroom of an American Star Trek fan away at college. In 2012, the year before he took office, Xi returned to Muscatine briefly to reunite with his hosts, who he has reportedly maintained correspondence. Xi told them via an interpreter, according to the Muscatine Journal, a local paper where Twain once worked, “to me, you are America.”
Cheng was amazed by the tale right away.
“Never before in China’s history did a ‘huangdi’ [emperor] get in touch with ordinary Americans, nobody,” Cheng reflected. (He later implied that he misspoke and meant to say “president.”) “The house just quietly stands here as nobody pays attention? I bought it off without even thinking,” said Cheng, who has been traveling back and forth after buying the house during his first visit to the US in 2013.
Cheng, the youngest brother of five made his fortune by closely following China’s political winds.