‘Old friend’ Branstad is welcome as next ambassador, says Beijing
Beijing signaled its welcome to the expected new US ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, whom policy experts described as a good messenger.
The nomination is believed to be a positive sign by US president-elect Donald Trump amid a recent row raised by Trump’s phone call with Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen.
Branstad, the governor of Iowa, accepted Trump’s invitation to be the next US top envoy to China on Wednesday.
Branstad said in a news release on Wednesday that he looks forward to “building on our long friendship to cultivate and strengthen the relationship between our two countries and to benefit our economy”.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said on Thursday that Branstad, “an old friend of the Chinese people”, has made contributions to boosting bilateral cooperation, and Beijing is “glad to see an old friend take this job”.
Although Trump’s planned China policy remains unclear, speculation has focused on how Branstad, serving his sixth term as Iowa governor, will tap into his good ties with both President Xi Jinping and Trump as a senior diplomat.
Branstad’s ties with Xi were established in 1985 when Xi visited Iowa during his first US trip as a county leader in Hebei province. Xi visited Iowa again in 2012 as vicepresident.
Branstad supported Trump during the presidential race, and his son Eric ran Trump’s general election campaign in Iowa.
Yuan Zheng, a researcher of US foreign policy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Branstad’s good connections with both sides will “allow him to better convey messages and eliminate strategic misunderstanding through effective liaison”.
But “diplomacy may be a major challenge, as the relationship is always entangled with complicated topics”, including the Taiwan question, so it might take him a while to learn and adapt, Yuan said.
Teng Jianqun, a senior researcher on US studies at the China Institute of International Studies, said Branstad probably will work effectively on promoting China-US communication on economy and trade, since Trump will not likely put a brake on the flourishing economic ties.