‘Old friend’ Branstad is wel­come as next am­bas­sador, says Bei­jing

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHANG YUNBI in Bei­jing and CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton Con­tact the writ­ers at zhangyunbi@chi­nadaily.com.cn

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.

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