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Trump Designates Friend of Pres. Xi—Iowa Gov. Branstad—as Ambassador to China

Dec. 7, 2016 (EIRNS)—Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been designated by President-elect Trump, to be U.S. Ambassador to China. The assignment is propitious on a number of accounts. Pres. Xi Jinping and Branstad are friends, arising in part from Xi having visited Iowa several times, making many personal friends, and Branstad, in turn, visiting China often. Iowa and China have significant, long-standing trade relations, especially in agriculture, and also cultural exchanges. Branstad’s son, Eric, was the Iowa campaign manager for Trump.

Coming days after the minor flap over Trump’s phone call with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen, and his Twitter response to Chinese objections to that call, this appointment sends a significant positive message to Beijing that the Trump Administration wants to work with China productively.

Xi first came to Iowa in 1985, to Muscatine (on the Mississippi River), where he stayed with a local host family and got to see many aspects of a farm community up close. At that time, Xi was a Communist Party official from Hebei Province, and a director of a feed-processing cooperative. On that trip, he first met Branstad, who was in his first term as governor (1983 to 1999).

Subsequently the two met on the several trade delegations Branstad led from Iowa to China, especially during Branstad’s next term as governor (2011 to the present). In 2012, Xi, then Vice President of China, made an official state return visit to Muscatine, for a reunion with his friends, as well as more agriculture activities. During the state dinner, Branstad toasted Xi:

"So many Iowans are pleased that a man we befriended those many years ago has risen to such a position of prominence and respect in the great nation of China."

Branstad’s last of four trade missions to China was last month, especially to promote meat exports. The major Iowa exports to China are corn, soy, and pork.

Muscatine has its own special connections to China. In 2015, the new Muscatine Center opened in Jinana, China, with then Muscatine Mayor DeWayne Hopkins taking part in the ceremony.

Meantime, Chinese investors are currently building a hotel (and cultural center) on the Mississippi riverfront in downtown Muscatine, in expectation of Chinese tourist interest in seeing the home town where Xi Jinping stayed, but also where Mark Twain once stayed and worked; Twain is a popular American figure in China. In February 2016, the City of Muscatine welcomed the renowned China Broadcasting Chinese Orchestra for a standing-room-only performance. The players, who stayed with host families, gave teaching sessions on traditional Chinese instruments.