President-elect Donald Trump vowed during the campaign that his administration would make closing the U.S. trade deficit with China a top priority.
He addressed that promise head-on Wednesday by selecting Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as his choice for U.S. ambassador to China.
One reason could be his 30-year relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese leader in decades.
Another is that Branstad is governor of a state rooted smack in the center of the nation's agricultural breadbasket and Xi has historically expressed keen awareness of agriculture's infinite importance.
"Given Xi's penchant to keeping things close-hold, it is important for the U.S. to have a reliable and direct communication channel to him," Bonnie Glaser, senior adviser for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Associated Press Wednesday. "Branstad has met Xi periodically since 1985 and has a personal relationship with him that could be very useful."
The relationship began when both men were political newcomers.
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 to help his own agriculturally rich region.
In 2013, he returned to Iowa as China's incoming president and met with Branstad for a formal dinner in Des Moines between meetings in Washington, D.C., with President Barack Obama and a trip to California.
If Trump's recent comments suggest the U.S.-China relationship could be bumpy, Branstad's longtime relationship with Xi could help smooth things. His personal touch could go a long way in avoiding conflict caused by miscommunication or misinterpretation.
Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific security program at the Center for a New American Security, told the AP that by selecting an ambassador who has forged commercial ties between his state and China, Trump was signaling to Xi that as leaders they will have the same fundamental priority in seeking economic growth.
It is in this way that Iowa's loss is a big win for the United States.
It's also a plus for the lieutenant governor who will ascend to an Iowa office never before held by a woman.
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, with Branstad's ambassadorship, will become the state's chief executive.
"She'll do a great job," Kraayenbrink told The Messenger. "She's a great listener and a great leader."
Farm News congratulates the governor on his new role, applauding Trump's insightful choice.
And we congratulate the soon-to-be new governor. Reynolds has long been mentored to take on this role and, we believe, will guide Iowa with the same abiding care that her predecessor embraced.