In a group reunion on Sunday in Beijing, Sarah Lande, on her fifth visit to China, told Xi that "we can set an example for our countries of how friendship opens a door for business and trade. Then our friendship can shape our countries in the future".
The friendship Lande spoke of was sealed when Xi first visited Iowa as an official from Iowa's Chinese sister state Hebei almost three decades ago.
Leading a delegation of four other local officials on a trip primarily focused on learning agricultural techniques, Xi and his colleagues spent two weeks there, visiting farms, feed suppliers and grain processing and food biotechnology companies as part of an exchange that began with Iowans going to Hebei in 1984.
During the trip, Xi met then and current Iowa Governor Terry Branstad in Muscatine, as well as more than a dozen other Iowans he now calls "old friends".
Among them, Lande and her husband, Roger, who were one of the several families that hosted or spent time with Xi's delegation during that visit.
During their reunion in February, when Xi visited the US, Lande told him that "friendship is a big business, and a world of friendship is a world of peace."
At Sunday's meeting, Xi said Lande's remarks were impressive.
Speaking with a group of those old Muscatine friends who are visiting China, Xi said people-to-people exchanges are the foundation of China-US ties, and the undying force behind growth in China-US ties.
The relationship between the two countries has come to an important time, and the two have been committed to exploring a new type of bilateral ties marked by mutual respect, cooperation and benefit to both, according to Xi.
This is an unprecedented endeavor that can inspire people in the future, and it is not an easy task, said Xi.
Xi pledged that the two countries will have more such grassroots exchanges and carry on their friendship.
Branstad, who is leading the Iowa delegation, said Xi's visit to Iowa in 1985 "was like planting a seed of corn. Now it has grown to be a tall stock that will provide a wonderful yield of friendship and economic benefit to both of our countries for years to come."
Branstad said Xi has made such a great impression on the people of Iowa and built a lasting friendship, which is beneficial to both countries.
Luca Berrone, a 56-year-old businessman who helped arrange the schedule of Xi's delegation 27 years ago in Iowa, said the friendship between Xi and Iowa was like a thread binding the two countries together.
The veteran businessman also said "the reality we have seen (during our trip to China) far exceeds how we have imagined it".
Xi's 1985 visit to Iowa, the agricultural state known for meat and cotton products, came just a few years after China and the United States established their diplomatic relations. Since then, the two countries have seen increasing personnel exchanges.
While only a few thousand visitors traveled between China and the US 30 years ago, now more than 9,000 people are flying between the two countries every day, 160,000 Chinese study in the US, and 23,000 US citizens study in China, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.
During his meeting with the Iowa delegation, Xi said the two countries should push for more exchanges and cooperation so that more people could contribute and benefit from China-US cooperation.