Theses Master's

Small Town, Global City: The Changing Landscape in Muscatine, Iowa from 2010 to 2020

Hagerty, Lanier

On February 15, 2012, Xi Jinping, then vice president of China, visited Muscatine, Iowa, a small town on the banks of the Mississippi River with a population just under 24,000. Though the visit lasted just one hour, it would shape the trajectory of Muscatine for the next decade. In the years that followed, Muscatine was the recipient of significant Chinese political, social and financial capital investment.

Muscatine’s story is a story of global exchange, diplomacy and strategic political partnerships, phenomena that shape some of the world’s biggest cities. This thesis seeks to understand the nuances of these power networks in Muscatine’s context and the tradeoffs for the community that have resulted from Xi Jinping’s visit in 2012. This research can be divided into two distinct lines of inquiry: (1) Where is Muscatine positioned in a network of county, state, national and international global capital flows? (2) What implications has the influx of foreign capital spurred by Xi’s visit had on the Muscatine community?

Results suggest that while Muscatine is a conduit through which Iowa and China have conducted their relationship, the small town has leveraged its position in a way that has ensured its benefit and protected against its exploitation. Muscatine’s role as a node in major networks of international trade, foreign direct investment and cultural diplomacy turns conventional frameworks of urban scalar dynamics inside out.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Meisterlin, Leah M.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
July 13, 2021