WASHINGTON, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Newly-elected Chinese President Xi Jinping is a "progressive and thoughtful leader," says Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, who expects stronger U.S.-China ties under Xi.
"He will be someone who is very good to work with and it is an opportunity for us to build better relationships between the two countries," Branstad, who considers Xi an old friend, told Xinhua in a written interview.
Branstad's first contact with Xi dates back to 1985 when Xi led an agricultural research delegation from China's northern Hebei province to Iowa to learn advanced managerial expertise. Branstad was in his first term as the U.S. Midwestern state's governor.
"I met him in my formal office, and we assigned one of our economic development officials, Luca Barone, to show him all around our state, to various farms, factories and food processing plants," Branstad recalled of his first meeting with Xi.
"He mentioned that he had read 'Mark Twain' and learned about the Mississippi River as a young person. He is also a very inquisitive person, with a strong interest in agriculture and food," the governor said.
As Chinese vice president, Xi paid an official visit to the United States last February, looking to build a new type of relationship between the world's top two economies.
During the five-day visit, Xi reunited with a dozen of his old American friends for a teatime chat in the small town of Muscatine in Iowa.
"Xi Jinping told me how much he appreciated the friendliness and hospitality that was shown to his entire delegation during their trip to Iowa," Branstad recalled.
"My relations with Xi Jinping indicate to me that he is a very outgoing and very personable individual. I think that he relates very well with people," the governor said.
Iowa is now enjoying a tailwind from China's booming market. China is Iowa's fifth largest export market, and the state imported about 1.2 billion U.S. dollars in goods from China in 2011.
As a leading domestic producer for corn, soybeans and pork, Iowa's exports to China last year increased 12-fold to 575 million U.S. dollars, over 2000.
Branstad, now in his fifth term as the state's governor, said he believed, with Xi taking the helm, there was a fine opportunity to further relations between the two countries.
Branstad said he was impressed by China's huge changes during his last year trip to the country.
"It has transformed as a country. There are many tall buildings, new high-speed trains and a lot of automobiles. The standard of living for people has improved substantially," said the governor, who first visited China in 1984.
"I think all of this is very positive and it is evident that China is working very hard to improve opportunities for all of its people," he said.
His impression echoed Xi's first public speech as general secretary of the Communist Party of China (CPC) on Nov. 15, 2012, when he said "the people's longing for a good life is what we are fighting for."
Xi was elected Chinese president Thursday during the first session of the 12th National People's Congress.