Branstad to leave ‘tough job’ as China ambassador


By Perry Beeman, Iowa Capital Dispatch

via NE Iowa News - Sep 14, 2020


U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad served as a calming force during a particularly rocky period in U.S.-China relations, helping to lead to a resurgence in the communist nation’s purchases of American crops, his Iowa allies said Monday.


News spread early Monday that Iowa time that Branstad, 73, Iowa’s longest-serving governor, will step down as ambassador in October. He was one of President Trump’s first diplomatic appointments. Trump heralded Branstad’s long relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping.


Branstad’s long-time associates in Iowa said he is expected back in Iowa by the first week of October. Branstad has homes in Johnston and at Lake Panorama, and most of his family already has left China. His daughter, Allison Costa, still teaches expats in Beijing.


Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association, said Branstad was a welcome, farm-friendly force. He praised Branstad for a relatively long service as ambassador in a high-turnover world of international diplomacy.


“That is a tough job,” Leeds said in an interview. “He has hung in there in a tough situation.”


Leeds had previously noted that China was not keeping up with its commitments under a preliminary agreement between the two countries in January.


Branstad: Negotiations have made ‘too little progress’


Branstad recently was in the middle of a scuffle with the People’s Daily in China, which on Sept. 7 declined to run an op-ed he submitted to the publication. The newspaper accused Branstad of asking the staff to print U.S. propaganda while criticizing the Chinese media as “propaganda machines.” Branstad’s op-ed was “illogical, overbearing and unreasonable,” the Daily wrote in a letter rejecting the piece as “full of loopholes and seriously inconsistent with facts.” The staff said it would consider publishing the op-ed if Branstad made “substantive revisions based on facts.”


The Daily accused the United States of discriminating against Chinese journalists in the U.S. “out of Cold War mentality and ideological prejudice.” One example was a three-month visa limit for Chinese media “including those permanently based at the United Nations headquarters.


In Branstad’s op-ed, entitled “Resetting the Relationship Based on Reciprocity,” he said negotiations between the two nations had made “too little progress.”


Branstad wrote that China must be “willing to address our concerns about the imbalance in the relationship and allowing our two peoples to build relationships through unrestricted engagement and uncensored discussion.” He added that U.S. journalists, companies and nongovernment organizations had had “unequal access” to China.


In a statement, Branstad said he informed Trump last week that he would be resigning in early October. “We are rebalancing the U.S.-China relationship so that it is fair and reciprocal and can fuel positive growth in both countries,” Branstad said of his tenure.


On Sept. 11, Chinese officials announced new, unspecified, restrictions on U.S. diplomats in reaction to U.S. tightening of rules governing Chinese diplomats’ actions in the U.S.


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that Branstad had helped form relations that were “results-oriented, reciprocal, and fair.”


Work remains.


Concerns remain about future of U.S.-China trade ...


Branstad’s tenure caps long career ...