BEIJING (AP) – The US ambassador to China will resign early next month, ending a three-year term marked by a trade war and increasingly bitter relations between the world’s two largest economies.
Terry Branstad, appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017, confirmed his decision in a phone call with Trump last week, the US Embassy said in a statement on Monday. He did not give a reason for his departure.
I am most proud of our work to secure the phase one trade deal and deliver tangible results for our communities at home, he said at an embassy staff meeting on Monday.
News of his departure leaked earlier today when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Branstad on Twitter for his service.
Ambassador Branstad has helped rebalance U.S.-China relations to be results-oriented, reciprocal and equitable, Pompeo wrote in a follow-up tweet.
China’s Foreign Ministry said before the embassy’s announcement that it was aware of Pompeos’ tweet but had not received any notification of Branstad’s departure.
Branstad was embroiled in a recent controversy when China’s official Peoples Daily newspaper dismissed an opinion column that he had written.
Pompey tweeted last week that the ruling Communist Party in China refused to publish Branstads’ editorial while the Chinese ambassador to the United States is free to publish in any American media.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian replied that Branstads’ article was full of loopholes, seriously inconsistent with the facts, and attacked and disparaged China for no reason.
The U.S. Embassy contacted the Peoples Daily on August 26 about the article, asking them to print it in full without any changes by September 4, the Peoples Daily said in a statement. published online.
Branstad, 73, is from Iowa and served as governor of the main agricultural state for 22 years in two spans, from 1983 to 1999 and from 2011 to 2017.
Early in his first term, he met Xi Jinping, now China’s leader, when the then county-level Communist Party official visited Iowa on a business trip in 1985.
Trump appointed him ambassador after a months-long vacancy, in which the No. 2 head of embassies, David Rank, resigned after criticizing the Trump administrations’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
Shortly after arriving in Beijing in June 2017, Branstad welcomed American beef to the Chinese market after a 14-year ban, saying I know reducing the trade deficit is a key priority for the president, and that is one of the ways we can do this.
But trade relations deteriorated quickly, with the United States imposing tariffs on Chinese goods and China retaliating in kind. Other conflicts followed over technology, human rights, and the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Branstad joined U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in trade talks with their Chinese counterparts in Beijing in May 2019.
The phase one agreement reached the following January represented a truce but did not address the most fundamental complaints of the American side.
The U.S. Embassy statement also highlighted Branstads’ role in efforts to reduce the flow of fentanyl from China to the United States, including a 2018 pact in which China agreed to list the opioid as a controlled substance.
Branstad also made a rare visit to Tibet in May 2019, where he expressed concern over what the United States has called Chinese government interference in the freedom of Tibetan Buddhists to organize and practice their religion.
He encouraged the Chinese government to engage in a substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, to seek a settlement that resolves the differences, according to an embassy statement at the time.
Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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