Why China Matters to the Heartland

A Project Report by the US Heartland China Association

January 2023


At the U.S. Heartland China Association, where I am the Chairman and President, we are focused on promoting positive, productive, and mutually beneficial ties between the peoples of the United States and China. As part of said mission, we strive to be a resource for those interested in learning more about the current state of the ongoing partnership between China and the Heartland.

In the current political climate, we see a need to provide accessible, trustworthy information regarding the benefits of U.S.-China cooperation, which often go unacknowledged. With this report, we aim to not just recount facts, but to celebrate the many avenues of collaboration between China and the Heartland which have strengthened our economies, progressed our shared knowledge, and enriched our communities.

Business with China has brought tremendous opportunities to our cities and our region at large. In the 21 states which USHCA serves, 416,460 jobs are supported by trade with China, and another 68,560 are supported by over 1,000 Chinese-owned businesses.

An approximate 76,710 Chinese students and scholars attended Heartland universities in 2022, strengthening our educational system with their talents. From university presidents to award-winning professors and researchers, they contributed to the scientific and technological advancement on and off our campuses.

Most especially, we want to recognize the 800,000 plus Chinese Americans living in the Heartland region. Anti-Asian sentiment has been on the rise these past few years, and we wish to not only thoroughly condemn hate, but most especially to uplift our fellow community members. Chinese Americans have made significant contributions to our country for over a century and they will continue to play a significant role in the future of U.S.-China relations.

It is critical that we continue to extend opportunities and expand relationships as related to China, the second largest economy and one of the most populous countries in our time. There is no magic pill that is going to solve the problems between our two countries.  But we are confident that through people-to-people exchanges in culture, education, and business  mutual understanding can be rebuilt.

We thank you for reading this report, and doing your part to help build a strong and enduring Sino-American relationship.

-Hon. Bob Holden,

Chairman and President

Former Governor of Missouri

Former Chairman of the Midwest Governors Association


The U.S. Heartland China Association (USHCA) is proud to present the second installment in our annual “Why China Matters to the Heart-land” project. The project examines benefits of the U.S.-China relationship at the state level and provides an easy-to-access resource for Heartland states all on one platform.

Even as the U.S. and China shift toward strategic competition, USHCA believes that the interests of the American people are best served by thoughtful exploration of opportunities with the Chinese people, rather than a wholesale dismissal of ties. And so, we remain committed to promoting a productive and mutually beneficial relationship between the American heartland region and China through exchanges in culture, education and business. This project is an effort with that goal in mind.

“Why China Matters to the Heartland” is a resource for business leaders, state and local politicians, higher education professionals, and anyone else who wants to understand key data of the Heartland’s cultural, educational and business ties to China. It also includes perspectives from Heartland community leaders that highlight the benefits their communities have reaped through exchange with China.

For example, did you know that despite ongoing political tensions, 2021 marked the highest year on record for U.S. goods exports to China for a total of $149 billion USD? You might be surprised to learn that half of that sum came from our very own Heartland region. 

Few grasp the longevity and multi-faceted nature of the U.S.-China relationship across culture, education and business. “Why China Matters to the Heartland” helps put things in perspective.

A Note on Data Included

This report is based largely on publicly available data from 2020 to 2022 that was compiled in Summer 2022. As such, we expect some numbers to shift in future reports. Information with multi-year data points is based on the availability of information and is compiled from multiple data sources. 

While data may shift alongside trade tensions or pandemics, the importance of the U.S.-China relationship remains constant. It is USHCA’s hope that this resource will help educate our communities about opportunities for exchange in culture, education and business that will benefit our Heartland states.

Our interns and staff strive to capture the most accurate data available. In the case you do see an error please let us know by email at contact@usheartlanchina.org.

Data sources:

For the states’ trade statistics: USCBC Export Report 2022.

For information relating to Chinese companies operating in-state: Rhodium Group and National Committee on U.S. China Relations’ “New Neighbors: 2018 Update”.

For information relating to Chinese international students: Open Doors’ 2022 Annual Data.

For the population of Chinese Americans in-state: APIAVote’s “2020 AAPI Numbers and Facts, By State” or populationu.com if the report did not have the data.

For FDI: Rhodium Group’s US-China Investment Hub.

For sister city relationship information: Asia Matters for America by the East-West Center.


This project was made possible thanks to our partners from across the American Heartland. We also want to thank the Ford Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York for their support of our organization, as well as the Carter Center for making the report available in printed copies.

Much appreciation also goes to the USHCA team of 2022 research interns Liana Lan, Simiao Wang, and Ellen Wright who recently joined USHCA as a staff member.

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