Presdient-elect Donald Trump has reportedly picked Iowa Governor and longtime Xi Jinping “pal” Terry Branstad to become the next US ambassador to China. Branstad has already accepted the offer, sources told Bloomberg News.
The news will likely come as no suprise to many. Branstad, 70, is the longest-serving governor in US history. As part of a sister-state exchange in 1985, he welcomed a young agricultural official by the name of Xi Jinping to Iowa to interact with local officials and live out on the farm.
Apparently, Branstad was able to develop something of a connection with this former director of the Feed Association of Shijiazhuang Prefecture who was destined for bigger things. When Xi returned to Iowa on a state visit in 2012 as China’s vice president, Branstad treated him to an elaborate state dinner in Des Moines.
While it may seem hard to believe that the two could foster a “friendship” — considering the government taboos, cultural differences and language barriers dividing them — Bloomberg says that the pair have “used their mutual love of agriculture to bridge the gap between their respective countries on human rights, economic issues and other tensions.”
It is this “intimate” connection that made Branstad the odds on favorite to become the next US ambassador to China. That, and his steadfast support for Trump, even as the Republican presidential candidate was mired in scandal.
“The words were reprehensible. I find them to be very offensive. But he’s also apologized for it, and he’s said that he had not done this,” Branstad said after being asked if a tape featuring Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women disqualified him from being president.
During a rally in Sioux City two days before the presidential election, Trump called Branstad on to the stage and singled him out as “our prime candidate to take care of China.”
Over the last seven years, Branstad has made four trips to China, including one just after Trump’s election.
On Tuesday afternoon, Branstad arrived at Trump Tower in New York, taking the elevator up for a meeting with high-level Trump advisers — including chief of staff, Reince Priebus, chief strategist Steve Bannon, Donald Trump Jr. and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
An hour later, Branstad came back down, but played coy with reporters, refusing to say whether he had been offered the post.
Of course, Branstad’s selection comes shortly after Trump caused a shitstorm over the weekend by breaking with 35 years of US foreign policy protocol and speaking with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen over the phone. Trump later defended his decision by launching into a Twitter rant against China.
Afterward, Chinese state news media said that Trump’s tirade reflected his “ignorance about China” and predicted that China-US relations would be at their most volatile during the early months of his presidency.
But that was all before Xi Jinping’s BFF got the ambassador job. We’re sure that some heartfelt talks about agricultural will quickly be able to smooth over any problems between the two governments in the future.
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