A 30-year-old photo shows the long history Trump's incoming ambassador to China has with Xi Jinping

Gov. Branstad and President Xi in 1985Iowa.govIowa Gov. Terry Branstad and President Xi Jinping in 1985.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, whom President-elect Donald Trump intends to nominate as US ambassador to China, has a decades-old relationship with the country’s president, Xi Jinping, that dates back to the 1980s.

Branstad has accepted Trump’s offer for the position, the president-elect’s transition team confirmed Wednesday, and Chinese officials were quick to praise Branstad as an “old friend.”

Branstad and Xi’s first meeting occurred in 1985 — Xi had travelled to Iowa as part of a delegation that visited family and commercial farms, according to the Des Moines Register.

Then, Branstad was in his first term as governor, just two years after Iowa launched a sister-state relationship with China’s Hebei province.

They met again on Branstad’s 2011 visit to China, when Xi had become vice president. The men held a 45-minute discussion, during which Xi reminisced about the hospitality he had experienced in Iowa during his 1985 visit, The Washington Post reported.

Over the next five years, Branstad and Xi met frequently, mostly during trade missions.

Branstad’s nomination is expected to reassure the Chinese, who have been wary of Trump’s past behaviour and comments. Over the past week, Trump has assailed China’s trade and currency policies and threatened punitive tariffs on Chinese goods.

He also came under fire for accepting a congratulatory phone call last Friday from the president of Taiwan, which is not recognised as a sovereign nation by China. The US cut off official diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1979 in favour of relations with Beijing.

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