Iowa Governor Terry Branstad is headed back to China at the end of May. Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping visited Iowa in February to reminisce with Iowans who hosted him in their homes and businesses in 1985 when Xi was part of a Chinese delegation visiting Iowa. Now, Xi has a reunion planned in China.

“He’s invited the old friends he met here in ’85 and myself and (Iowa Economic Development Authority director) Debi Durham to come over there and be there the 29th of May through the 5th of June,” Branstad says. “I’m very excited about this. This is where the future is and where we have an opportunity to market our products.”

Branstad will also attend the opening of Vermeer’s new manufacturing plant in Beijing. Branstad says officials with the Pella-based company tell him about 500 Vermeer employees in the U.S. are making components that will be shipped to China for use in that factory.

“We’re also going to visit our sister-state, Hubei Province, and Shijiazhuang (district),” Branstad says. “Xi Jinping was in charge of the feed association in Shijiazhuang when he came to Iowa in 1985.”

This is Branstad’s fourth visit to China, but he first met the man who is likely to be China’s next president in his own office in Des Moines. It was in ’85, during Xi’s visit to Iowa. This past February, Xi lauded China’s “flourishing” trade ties with Iowa.

“According to some statistics, in the last decade Iowa’s exports to China have grown by almost 13 times and a large number of Iowa businesses – the Principal Financial Group, the Pioneer seed company and others – are performing well in China,” Xi said, through an interpreter, during a formal “state dinner” at the Iowa capitol.

Xi told the crowd Iowa “stands at the forefront” of relations between China and the U.S.

“I hope Iowa will take an active part in economic, trade and investment cooperation between China and the United States,” Xi said in Des Moines in February. “China will actively encourage our enterprises to make investments in Iowa and to contribute to the creation of local jobs.”

Branstad says this latest invitation to China is a “positive” sign.

“It gives Iowa an opportunity to continue to build on our long-standing, friendly relationship with the biggest country in the world,” Branstad says.

Xi is expected to become China’s next president, but the exact timing has not been announced, only that it will happen anytime between July and December.