As news Democratic candidate Joe Biden won the tightly-contested US election made headlines across the world this week, a heartwarming story portraying an act of kindness from the president-elect 19 years ago in China has emerged.
Biden visited the small village of Yanzikou north of Beijing in 2001 during an official visit to China while he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Foreign officials knocked on the door of Tang Shaojun’s home for a meet-and-greet and a subsequent photo opportunity.
"I think they chose to visit us because our house was the poorest and shabbiest in the village at the time," Tang, who was 21 at the time of Biden’s visit, recalled to AFP this week.
Biden purchased ice creams for the villagers and shook hands with those who came to meet a foreigner at a time when they were few and far between across the Communist nation.
“We were certainly very excited... I then thought that foreigners were pretty great,” Tang’s husband Liu said.
Yet it was only later that the young family realised the true extent of Biden’s kindness.
After cradling the couple’s two-month-old son, he secretly slipped 200 yuan ($40) under a kitchen cleaver for the family.
On average farmers earn 14 yuan an hour in China, according to the Economic Research Institute’s Salary Expert, however Biden’s visit came amid a period of economic growth which has since seen China catapulted into the world’s top two largest economies.
"We didn't even have a refrigerator or modern appliances. We had no gas stove and had to cook on a coal stove. Flies were buzzing everywhere,” Liu said.
Local farmer Li Hua said Biden was “very friendly" and greeted everyone there.
Nineteen years on, it was only until AFP reporters visited the village that they realised the man who had been so pleased to meet them was the same American who had just won the US election.
One of the children, Gao Shan, was nine when he was pictured shaking hands with the US president-to-be and remembers Biden joking that perhaps Gao would become the leader of China one day.
"Back then, he wished me well and now he will become the next president. That's awesome," said 29-year-old Gao, who works in sales and still lives in the village.
"I wish him luck."
How Biden will respond to China has been subject to growing speculation after a hostile relationship with the Asian powerhouse under President Donald Trump.
Relations between the US and China are touted to improve under Biden however is expected to take a hard line on human rights and pollution.
"If they don't cause trouble with China, they can come back anytime,” Liu said.
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