Terry Branstad will step down as US ambassador to China after more than three years in Beijing, a source confirmed to CNN on Monday.
Branstad is expected to leave Beijing before the November US presidential election, the source said.
The announcement comes amid mounting tensions between the United States and China on several fronts. The Chinese government said on Friday it would impose unspecified restrictions on senior U.S. diplomats and personnel in China after Washington implemented a similar measure targeting Beijing’s diplomatic corps on September 3.
In a Twitter message Monday morning, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Branstad for his service to the American people as US Ambassador.
“The President (Donald Trump) chose Ambassador Branstad because his decades of experience in relations with China made him the best person to represent the administration and defend American interests and ideals in this important relationship “Pompeo said.
Pompeo gave no reason for Branstad’s departure, nor any announcement regarding a potential successor to the important diplomatic post.
Branstad was one of President-elect Trump’s first ambassadorial choices in December 2016, shortly after Trump won the U.S. presidential election.
Trump said at the time that the then Iowa governor was chosen for his experience in public policy, commerce and agriculture, as well as his “long-standing relationship with the president ( Chinese) Xi Jinping ”, whom Branstad had known since 1985 through US-Chinese government exchanges.
During this time, the two are said to have maintained a sort of friendship, with Xi having met Branstad again during a visit to the United States in 2012 while still a vice president.
Originally, Branstad’s appointment was hailed by Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang, praising him as an “old friend of the Chinese people.”
But Branstad has overseen one of the most difficult periods in US-China relations in recent history. Since his appointment, the Trump administration has imposed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars in Chinese goods as part of a long-standing trade war. It also banned Chinese tech companies such as Huawei from accessing the country’s communications infrastructure and receiving American components, and tightened visa restrictions for Chinese state media journalists working in the United States. .
On September 9, an opinion piece by Branstad accusing the Chinese government of “exploiting” the American openness in recent decades was dismissed for publication by Communist Party spokesman the People’s Daily to be “Seriously inconsistent with the facts.”
“If you want to publish this editorial in the People’s Daily, you should make substantive, fact-based revisions in the principle of equality and mutual respect,” the state press publication said in its letter to rejection.
In response, Secretary of State Pompeo accused the People’s Daily of “hypocrisy,” saying that if the Chinese government was a mature power, it “would respect the right of Western diplomats to speak directly to Chinese people. “
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