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Why is China's Xi Jinping going to Iowa?

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Some local officials were encouraged that agriculture — and specifically Iowa agriculture — was to play such a prominent part in a trip by the future leader of the world's most populous country.

"It sends a signal that the new leader is not a stranger to the U.S. and that he has experience and familiarity with America by reaching right into the heartland," said David Shorr, a foreign-policy specialist at the Stanley Foundation, a Muscatine-based nonprofit that focuses on promoting peace and international relations.

Xi is expected to ascend to his nation's highest office in the next year and could lead China over the next decade. Xi got a lengthy Oval Office audience with President Barack Obama, an elaborate reception at the State Department, full military honors at the Pentagon, a gathering with chief business executives and an invitation for dinner at Vice President Joe Biden's house. He will fly to Iowa following the Washington visit and will later stop in California.

China has become an increasingly important trading partner for the United States. It purchased $20 billion in U.S. agriculture exports last year, making it the top buyer of farm goods.

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