Gary Dvorchak, MM '92, reports on his unique and irreplaceable guanxi (connections) in China.
Gary and his family moved to Beijing three years ago, and in the spring of 2015 joined San Francisco-based investor relations firm The Blueshirt Group to open their China practice. The Blueshirt Group Asia consults with China-based companies that are publicly traded in the US markets, mainly in the alternative energy, agriculture, and internet industries.
Gary’s move to China was not random…rather, his family played a short but highly impactful role in President Xi’s early career. Some alumni (and we'll wager nearly all of our native Chinese alumni and students) may recall that Xi Jinping visited the U.S. state of Iowa in 1985, when he led a small delegation from China’s Hebei Province on a two-week visit to learn about U.S. agriculture. At the time, Xi was a mid-level county functionary in his early thirties, the son of a prominent (and politically exiled) father, but otherwise an unknown "regular guy." The highlight of that 1985 trip was three days spent in Gary’s hometown of Muscatine, Iowa, during which time the delegates stayed with local families. For Xi, this first trip out of China, first trip to America and first time staying with an American family made an indelible impression. It shaped his image of the American people; at a reunion with “old friends” in Muscatine 28 years later, when he visited the U.S. as China's vice president, he told them, "To me, you are America!"
Gary’s parents hosted Xi and his translator during their stay in Muscatine. Xi slept in Gary’s bedroom while he and his brother were away at university…which is why his mother had the empty rooms. She was happy to offer her hospitality to these visitors from a far-off land. His sister Paula was still in the house and met Xi long before his rise to the top. The conversations were not easy -- having to go through a translator -- but both parties learned a lot about each other, both personally and about their cultures and countries. The visit was a catalyst for his parents and sister to visit China the following year, their first sojourn to Asia.
Life went on and the Muscatine folks involved with the visit lost touch, which is not surprising in a pre-Internet era with significant language barriers. Xi continued his rise to the pinnacle of Chinese politics, and in 2008 emerged as vice president and designated successor to lead the nation. As he planned his 2012 visit to the U.S., which introduced him to the world as the heir apparent to lead China, he directed his staff to track down those people he met in Muscatine all those years ago. The staff succeeded, of course, and his visit to Iowa and the reunion with old friends was an international highlight of that trip.
The implications of that 1985 visit reverberate to this day, both for Gary’s family, for Muscatine and for Iowa. Since 2013, he has lived in China, building business relationships as he expands The Blueshirt Group’s presence in that market.
When Gary’s parents visited China in April of 2015, their first and only trip since the 1986 visit, the Chinese government rolled out the red carpet, hosting 10 days of touring, meetings and banquets. President Xi warmly welcomed his parents, and the whole family was treated to a private, two-hour dinner with the president, his wife and daughter. Below is the only photo the staff has delivered so far, but one is better than none! By setting aside two hours of some of the most valuable time in the world to his parents (as well as Gary, his family and his brother), Xi demonstrated the depth of warm feelings he has for that brief time in Iowa so long ago. The fact that this dinner was not covered by the media and thus not staged for political purposes deepens the conviction that the Muscatine visit 30 years ago made a deep, personal and lasting positive impression on Xi. He really does consider the Muscatine hosts his "old friends.”
Gary welcomes any Kellogg alumni visiting Beijing or attempting to do business there to get in touch with him. He is happy to meet fellow alumni and help with introductions, activities, or simply navigating the complexity of modern-day China.
Xi Dinner Group Clear.jpg 3.5 MB