Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has been nominated to be the next United States ambassador to China.
Branstad is a longtime friend of Chinese President Xi Jinping and his nomination, first reported by Bloomberg, was welcomed by Beijing.
The nomination, first reported by Bloomberg, was welcomed by Beijing.
"Governor Branstad is an old friend of the Chinese people," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Lu Kang. "We welcome the fact that he is to play a great role in promoting the development of China-US relations."
President Xi has known Branstad since 1985, when he visited Iowa as part of an official delegation studying pig-raising techniques.
China is a crucial export market for the Midwestern state of Iowa, which is a major producer of pigs, soybeans and corn.
Personal ties to Xi
Branstad's personal ties with Xi could help smooth relations between the U.S. and China, which have come into greater focus since Donald Trump's victory.
Last week, Trump spoke over the phone with Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, breaking decades of U.S. diplomatic protocol and angering Beijing.
It was the first official contact between a U.S. president or president-elect and Taiwan's leader since the U.S. recognized the Beijing government in 1979.
The New York Times reports that the phone call was the result of six months of behind the scenes work by former U.S. Senator Bob Dole acting on behalf of the Taiwan government.
The report said Dole's Washington law firm (Alston & Bird) received $140,000 from May to October for the work.
During his campaign, Trump took a hawkish stance on China, vowing to label it a currency manipulator and impose a 45 percent tariffs on all Chinese imports.
Branstad, 70, was one of the earliest Republican supporters of Trump's presidential campaign. His office has not confirmed the appointment.
If confirmed, he would replace current U.S. Ambassador Max Baucus, a former U.S. congressman who has served in the post since 2014.