President-elect Donald Trump has ruffled feathers in Beijing lately with his seemingly cozy approach to Taiwan.
But his appointment of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as ambassador to China may be winning approval with the Asian giant's leadership.
China's President Xi Jinping has a soft spot for the Hawkeye State. He and Branstad have cultivated a friendship since 1985, when President Xi, then a government official, visited Iowa with an agricultural delegation from Hebei province to learn more about the US state's agriculture practices.
Xi returned to Iowa in 2012, where he met local farmers Rick and Martha Kimberley.
The Kimberleys farm soybeans and corn on 4,000 acres just outside Maxwell, Iowa. Their operation is a model modern farming system, which is what brought Xi and a Chinese delegation to their living room. Xi was interested to learn more about farming technology and how the family operates their farm more like a business, according to the Kimberley's son Grant.
“President Xi asked a lot of good questions to my father and myself about how we market our crops; how we make our business decisions,” he says. Grant Kimberley is the sixth generation to run his family’s farm.
“We talked about the importance of trade and the roles that the US and China play in helping to feed the world,” he adds.
Now, thanks to a sister-state program, officials from Hebei province — an agricultural heartland — are hoping to replicate the Kimberleys' farm in China.
“They want to recreate aspects of our farm down to some of the physical details of the grain bins, machine sheds and of course, my parents’ home has been talked about,” says their son.
This being China, there has also been talk about creating an entire replica Midwestern town to go along with the Hebei farm to attract tourism. Think, Epcott Iowa.
Of course, says Kimberely, the replica farm in China will first and foremost be a working demonstration site, where farmers from the United States and China can come together to exchange techniques.