Iowa in the Heart of China

The link between two “old friends”--Ambassador Terry Branstad, the former governor of Iowa, and Chinese President Xi Jinping--is one of the most crucial relationships today between two officials on the world stage. The fruits or fallout of U.S.-China diplomacy could trigger sweeping change in global trade and security.

Iowa's unlikely special connection with China is most completely and accurately understood not through Washington, D.C., and Beijing but through Iowa and the decades of Chinese politicians, business people and diplomats who have paid special attention to a remote agricultural state because of its growing, oversized influence. Thanks to this attention, Iowa has become more of a lever to help steer the greater U.S.-China relationship.

Branstad, now on the doorstep of such international crises as the North Korean nuclear tests and missile launches, must stray far beyond his domestic experience and bring a deft touch to the most urgent disputes that directly affect our intertwined economies and military alliances.

He also will be faced with conflicts over human rights, business ethics, ecological issues and a safe and stable food supply. All this will be funneled through a friendship forged with little fanfare in 1985 and set against a cross-cultural exchange that began even earlier.

Journalist Kyle Munson and photojournalist Kelsey Kremer travel to China to get a first-hand look at this important personal relationship and its critical implications.