President-elect Donald Trump has tapped Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad to be U.S. Ambassador to China. The selection was confirmed by Trump spokesman Jason Miller, who added that Branstad will join Trump at a Des Moines rally on Dec. 8.
"It's very clear that Gov. Branstad is someone who will represent our country well on the world stage, and we couldn't be prouder of this selection," Miller said, notes CNN.
Branstad has a personal relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping, reports The New York Times.
In 1985, a Chinese delegation came to Iowa to study agricultural practices. Among the delegation was a 31-year-old communist official from a rural province -- Xi Jinping. Branstad was the governor of Iowa at the time, and Xi’s recollection of the trip fostered an immediate bond between the two. Xi became the Chinese president in 2013.
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“You can’t even imagine what a deep impression I had from my visit 27 years ago to Muscatine, because you were the first group of Americans that I came into contact with,” Xi told a group in Iowa that included Gov. Branstad, in 2012. “My impression of the country came from you. For me, you are America.”
“It’s a good pick because he knows President Xi, he can represent the heartland of the United States, which I think is very positive, and the fact that President Xi has been in his state twice is a very positive thing,” Robert Hormats, Obama’s former under secretary of state who is now a vice chairman at Kissinger Associates, said. “It creates a personal relationship that is very hard to replicate.”
Branstad will step into the role of ambassador during what may be a contentious relationship between China and the U.S. Trump has focused much of his presidential campaign on villainizing China and attacking their trade policies. Furthermore, on Dec. 2, Trump spoke with the Taiwanese government via phone -- a move that China swiftly responded to. “China doesn’t want to see any disturbance [to US-China relations],” said Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, according to the state-run China Daily.
Yet, Branstad’s appointment was greeted warmly by Chinese officials.