China, Iowa, and diplomacy in the Trump administration

Shambaugh Auditorium, UI Main Library, 125 West Washington Street
Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Iowa Flag

The University of Iowa Public Policy Center hosted “China, Iowa, and diplomacy in the Trump administration,” a panel and Q&A, at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 3, in Shambaugh Auditorium in the UI Main Library, 125 West Washington Street. 

A group of former ambassadors and China experts – all currently living in Iowa – discussed several topics, including U.S./China relations in the Trump administration, Iowa’s role in the United States’ relationship with China, Branstad as ambassador and the impact for Iowa and trade, and how Branstad’s selection fits within the broader vision of diplomacy in the Trump administration.

Panelists included:

  • Mary Kramer, former Iowa State Senator from 1990 to 2003 and U.S. ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean from 2004 to 2006;
  • Ronald McMullen, former career diplomat and U.S. ambassador to the State of Eritrea from 2007 to 2010, and current Ambassador in Residence in the UI Department of Political Science;
  • Bill Niebur, President and CEO of Origin Agritech and former Vice President and General Manager with strategic oversight responsibility for China, East Asia and Oceania for DuPont Pioneer;
  • Wenfang Tang, UI Stanley Hua Hsia Professor of Political Science and International Studies, whose current research focuses on public opinion and political change in contemporary China.

Lynn Hicks, Opinion and Engagement Editor for The Des Moines Register, and Ben Kieffer, host of Iowa Public Radio’s River to River, moderated the discussion.

The Des Moines Register, Iowa Public Radio, UI International Programs, the UI School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the UI Department of Political Science co-sponsored the event.

To listen to Iowa Public Radio's condensed version of the event, click here. Full video of the event is below.

Wednesday, April 5th, 2017
Session Details Speakers
7:00 PM Panel Discussion
  1. Mary Kramer
  2. Bill Niebur, PhD
  3. Ronald McMullen
  4. Wenfang Tang
  1. Lynn Hicks (Moderator)
  2. Ben Kieffer (Moderator)
  • Mary Kramer

    Former US Ambassador to Barbados

    H.E. Mary E. Kramer served in the Iowa Senate and was elected the President of the Senate in 1997.  In 2003 she was nominated and confirmed to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.


    She began her career as a pianist, and worked as a teacher and school administrator. She became the Corporate Personnel Director for Younkers, Inc. and later joined Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. During her tenure with the company she served as Vice President of Human Resources and Vice President of Community Investments. She holds Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from the University of Iowa.


    Ambassador Kramer has served on the Board of the Directors for the State Legislative Leaders Foundation and was the Chairman of the Board for the Senate President’s Forum.  She currently serves as the Chair of the Des Moines Performing Arts Board of Directors  and of the Iowa Public Radio Board. She is the immediate past Chair of the Iowa Public Television Foundation.   She has served on many boards and commissions, including  The Des Moines Club, the Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Central Iowa, Brenton Bank, and Mercy Hospital.  A lifetime member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), she has received the Society’s highest national award.  In August 2009, Mary was inducted into the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame and in 2015 was honored as a Distinguished Alumni of the University of Iowa.


    Her first book, More Than a Walk on the Beach was published in the fall of 2010.  Her second book, An Unlikely Diplomat and her Diplomatic Daughter; Stories and Recipes for the Life You Want, is her newest publication.  

  • Ronald McMullen

    University of Iowa Department of Political Science

    Ron McMullen is the University of Iowa’s Ambassador in Residence and previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the State of Eritrea.  A former career diplomat, Ron has over 30 years of global experience and has lived, worked, or traveled in 106 countries.  In Burma he worked closely with Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and pro-democracy groups.  While posted in Fiji he helped prevent civil conflict after an armed takeover of parliament.  He was shot at during a riot in Sri Lanka and helped train mongooses to detect heroin.  He survived a voodoo curse in the Dominican Republic and took Hillary Clinton on a tour of South Africa’s Robben Island with Nelson Mandela.  Between foreign assignments Ron taught for three years at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and later served as Diplomat-In-Residence at the University of Texas at Austin.  He has authored a number of scholarly works and is a three-time recipient of the State Department’s Superior Honor Award.


    Since joining the University of Iowa faculty in 2012, Ron has received the Honors Program Teaching Award and a Collegiate Teaching Award from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  A native of Northwood, Iowa and a graduate of Drake University, he earned his doctorate in political science from the University of Iowa.

  • Bill Niebur, PhD

    President and CEO, Origin Agritech

    ​Dr. Niebur joined Origin as president and CEO in April 2016. Prior to joining Origin, he served DuPont Pioneer as vice president and general manager with strategic oversight responsibility for China, East Asia and Oceania. Dr. Niebur has been in the seed business for more than three decades, beginning his career as a corn geneticist in Princeton, Ill. He went on to gain extensive global experience, first overseeing research and development while living in Europe, then returning to North America as the company's global vice president for R&D, and finally moving into business operations managing seed businesses. In 2015, Dr. Niebur was named as one of 50 people "Shaping the Future of the U.S.-China Relationship" in the Pacific Power Index, publicized by Foreign Policy Group. Dr. Niebur was instrumental in integrating technologies into plant genetics programs and was granted several patents which led to the commercialization of more than 30 branded products during his scientific career. Dr. Niebur holds both his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees from Iowa State University. He earned his doctorate in plant breeding and cytogenetics from the University of Minnesota.

  • Wenfang Tang

    UI Department of Political Science

    Wenfang Tang is Stanley Hua Hsia Professor of Political Science and International Studies. His current research focuses on public opinion and political change in contemporary China, as well as comparative political behavior. He has authored and coauthored several books published by Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and Stanford University Press, and many articles in academic journals including American Journal of Political SciencePolitical Research Quarterly, Political CommunicationJournal of Public PolicyChina QuarterlyJournal of Contemporary China, among others.

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