The University of South Dakota was the site of a multi-day diplomatic and educational experience last week when it played host to a delegation of approximately 40 Chinese visitors.
They were in Vermillion taking part in the American Visiting Institute for Chinese Real Estate Entrepreneurs, which found them attending lectures, going on tours and viewing demonstrations relating to South Dakota's agricultural capabilities.
Activities took place from April 26-28.
"This is a real unforgettable moment, and unforgettable trip," said Professor Bingquan Lu, leader of the delegation, at the closing ceremony Saturday morning in Farber Hall.
"So here, on behalf of my delegation, we want to say thank you: Thank you, governor and thank you to the University of South Dakota. This was a wonderful educational opportunity to every single student."
The institute came on the heels of a trip Gov. Dennis Daugaard made to China in March, when he and others went to learn about export opportunities.
China currently is the state's third-largest export market, he said.
Daugaard added he was glad to return the favor for the visiting Chinese delegation.
"Not long ago, our South Dakota delegation was eating Peking duck, sharing stories and laughter with some of you in Beijing, and then Shanghai," he said. "You were very gracious hosts, and my wife Linda and I and the other members of our group can't thank you enough for the hospitality you showed. …
"My trip to China gave me the opportunity to realize what a great opportunity there was for partnerships of businesses in South Dakota and China," he said.
While the delegation was here they attended a number of presentations, including one by Pat Costello of the Office of Economic Development, and another with John Hemmistad – director at Avalon Capital Group – called "Private Equity: An Investor's Perspective."
The delegation also took a tour of South Dakota ag secretary Walt Bones' dairy farm.
"You have all been very busy here in Vermillion. I've seen your schedule, and you have had the opportunity to learn from many intelligent individuals over the past week,"
Daugaard said. "I'm hoping that you enjoy your visit to South Dakota, and that you will return to China excited about opportunities to invest in our state."
For his part, Lu said through interpreter Diana Li that he hoped to maintain a good relationship with those he met here.
"Please let all of us be the ambassadors between China and America," he said. "This is our responsibility. We're expecting every single guest here will come back to China to visit, and we wish we will become the best of friends. And, we wish our friendship will last forever."
After the members of the delegation received their certificates of completion, Lu was given the title of visiting professor by the Beacom School of Business.
"This is the first time – and only time – we have given this award," said business school dean Mike Keller on bestowing the title. "We invite Professor Lu to come back at any time."
Gifts also were given to each of the delegates, and the Chinese visitors presented many of the state and university representatives with gifts in return, which included handcrafted boxes and paintings.
Lu concluded by thanking everyone who played a role in organizing the week's events.
"Every student – from now on, the University of South Dakota is our second home," he said. "As everybody knows, we have a saying in China: 'When you drink the water from the well, you need to always remember who dug the water, so if someone helped you, you have to know how to show appreciation.'
"Of course, we will have to – and we will – thank the University of South Dakota," he said. "We have to thank every teacher of the University of South Dakota with our actions, by bringing cooperation between China and the University of South Dakota, and the state of South Dakota. We also will have to make sure that there will be some kind of cooperation between China and South Dakota."