Iowa and Muscatine are held in high regard by China’s government. Xi Jinping, now the president of China, first came to Muscatine in 1984 as a part of an agriculture delegation. The relationships forged on that trip have grown in to culture of communication and diplomacy between Iowa and the world’s most populated country.

“Governor Branstad is an old friend of the Chinese people,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a press briefing. “We welcome him to play a great role in promoting the development of China-U.S. relations.”

Branstad, who developed a friendship with Xi and shares an interest in farming, said he was “honored and humbled” to accept the position. The son of a farmer, he is known for his down-to-earth leadership during almost 21 years in public office. Branstad received Xi with a gala dinner in Des Moines in 2012 when Xi was Chinese vice president. Prior to the gala in the state capital, Xi returned to Muscatine to visit his “old friends.”

A Trump transition team spokesperson stated in a release, “Governor Branstad obviously is Iowa’s longest-serving governor, someone who has considerable public policy experience but also someone who has a lot of experience and great grasp of trade issues, agriculture issues, has a tremendous understanding of China and Chinese people [and] is someone who very much impressed the president-elect. It’s very clear that Governor Branstad is someone who will represent our country well on the world stage, and we couldn’t be prouder of this selection.”