BEIJING (AP) -- Gov. Jesse Ventura barely hammed it up while touring a U.S. meat processing plant on Tuesday as part of a mission to sell Minnesota to the world's most populous nation.
The usually flamboyant Ventura dutifully posed for pictures with thrilled Chinese employees and muttered a subdued "Ah man," when company officials presented him with a statue of a golden dragon.
"I'm truly and deeply honored," said Ventura, who is halfway through a hectic eight-day mission to Beijing and Shanghai aimed at building trade ties between Minnesota and China, with its 1.3 billion people. About 100 state business leaders and officials are accompanying him.
"China has 20 percent of the world's population. In business, you don't want to exclude a fifth of the marketplace," Ventura said.
Last year, China bought $619 million in manufactured exports from Minnesota, 14 percent more than 2000.
Wearing a white, factory-issued cap and protective coat over his navy suit, Ventura toured the plant, owned in part by Austin, Minn.-based Hormel Foods Corp. He then munched on some of its output, which includes hot dogs, pepperoni, bacon and Spam, the company's best known product.
"The guy is a big guy. He's a governor and an important person in America," said David Wang, a Hormel employee who rushed to pose for a picture with Ventura.
The mission was originally scheduled for last November but was postponed after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. Peter Hale, a U.S. Commerce Department official, said the delegation is believed to be the largest to China ever organized by a state government.
Although Ventura's fame as a former professional wrestler has not spread to China, he said his testimony last year before U.S. Congress for China's admittance into the World Trade Organization helped ensure a warm welcome.
"I think the Chinese are much more up on politics and policy than Americans," he said.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.