Iowa Governor Terry Branstad was officially confirmed as the U.S.’s new ambassador to China on May 22, 2017, by the U.S. Senate through a bipartisan vote of 82 to 13. Branstad, the longest serving governor in U.S. History, is also a close friend and ally of President Donald Trump. Trump selected Branstad last December to be the next top diplomat in Beijing because of Branstad’s relationship with Xi Jinping and the people of China.
China’s Old Friend
Branstad and Xi met in 1985, when Branstad was in his first term as the governor of Iowa and Xi was still a young agricultural official representing Hebei province. Since then, Iowa and China have enjoyed a steady trade relationship, with China being a major consumer and importer of Iowa soybeans and pork. After decades of agricultural trade-dealing, Branstad is described as “an old friend of Chinese people” and is warmly welcomed into Beijing to play a bigger role in promoting Sino-US relations.
“I’m confident that [Branstad] fully understands the breadth and depth of the challenges awaiting [him] in China,” – Sen. Bob Corker, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
The Face of America
Branstad’s personal relationship with both President Xi and President Trump puts him in a unique position to navigate and represent the US-China relationship. With the recent resignation of David Rank, previous acting US ambassador to China, Branstad’s appointment comes at a critical time of representing America abroad. With growing tensions between the two countries concerning issues ranging from cyber security to territory disputes in the South China Sea, Branstad’s role as the new ambassador in Beijing requires him to function as a bridge between the two superpower voices of the world.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a boy from a small farm in Leland, Iowa, would one day have the opportunity to represent my country and my state on the world stage,” Branstad said following the hearing. “I look forward to working with both my friend, President Donald Trump, and my old friend, President Xi Jinping, for the mutual benefit of both of our countries and the rest of the world.”