It may seem odd for the governor of a lightly populated agricultural state to be chosen as U.S. ambassador to China. But Iowa Governor Terry Branstad boasts a 30-year relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
President-elect Trump announced his choice of Branstad on December 7.
This relationship between Xi and Branstad began when both men were political upstarts. In 1985, Branstad was nearing the end of his first term as governor, then the nation’s youngest at age 39. Xi was a rising leader seeking ideas in Iowa for crop and livestock techniques when he visited Iowa for the first time. The two met at the state capitol.
In 2012, Xi returned to Iowa as vice president and met with Branstad for a formal dinner.
Branstad has led six trade missions to China during his time as governor to pitch Iowa’s robust harvests, meeting with numerous provincial governors and local officials.
“It is important for the U.S. to have a reliable and direct communication channel to [Xi],” said Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “Branstad has met Xi periodically since 1985 and has a personal relationship with him that could be very useful.”
I'm honored and humbled to accept this responsibility as Amb to China; Iowa will never be far from my heart #iagov https://t.co/kkyXBYNElZ
— Terry Branstad (@TerryBranstad) December 7, 2016
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