In what sounds like an unlikely partnership, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad could be about to become the next U.S. Ambassador to China.
Gov. Branstad is a long-time friend of Chinese premier President Xi Jinping, having visited the country several times and also welcoming the leader personally during a trip to the Hawkeye state in 2012.
The decision is expected to come within the next few days according to Bloomberg.
Over the past week, meetings between Branstad and members of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team have taken place in New York with further appointments believed to have been set up for next week.
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President Xi Jinping of China and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad have known each other for more than 30-years. It’s possible Branstad could be the next U.S. Ambassador to China (pic in 2012)
Down memory lane: The Muscatine Journal ran a photograph of Xi Jinping’s visit to the Iowa farm town as an agriculture official in 1985. Little did he know he would be China’s next leader
‘I am not ruling anything out,’ Branstad said on November 19 at an annual fundraiser, ‘But you know my focus has always been here on Iowa and I want to serve the people of Iowa.’
The appointment will be all-the-more important in order to smooth the relationship between the U.S. and China after the president-elect Trump was roundly criticized for having a phone call with Taiwanese officials.
The communication goes against currently foreign policy which has saw America sever its political ties with the Chinese territory in 1979.
The Chinese government has since lodged a formal complaint with the United States over the historic phone call.
The pair have bonded over the years through their common love of agriculture
Branstad would need to smooth things over with Xi after President-elect Trump spoke with officials from Taiwan in a break from U.S. foreign policy
Branstad’s has quite the history with Xi. The two met during Xi’s first trip to Iowa in 1985 during a sister-state exchange.
At the time, Xi was an agricultural official from Hebei province and worked as director of the Feed Association of Shijiazhuang Prefecture.
The Xi visited Iowa once again in 2012, Branstad hosted an extravagant dinner for him at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines before heading back to China on a week-long trade mission.
It appears their mutual love of all-things agriculture has managed to plaster over any disagreements their countries may have on human rights or political issues.
That said, it may take plenty of sweet corn and sweet-talking to reassure Xi that the Chinese relationship remains a priority for the U.S. after the president-elect received a phone call from Taiwan’s Tsai Ing-wen on Friday.
Trump became the first president or president-elect to speak directly to the regime in 37 years.
On Saturday, China’s foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang issued a statement that said ‘there is only one China in the world’.
‘We have noticed relevant reports and lodged solemn representation with the relevant side in the United States,’ Shuang’s statement read.
The move has seemingly angered Chinese officials who harbor a frosty relationship with Tawain. China’s President Xi Jinping is pictured
Donald Trump strayed from diplomatic tradition on Friday with a phone call with the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen (right) – a move which prompted heavy criticism and threatened to sour the US’s relationship with Taiwan’s enemy China
The president-elect defended the phone call in a Twitter post on Friday night hours after announcing it in a separate message to followers
‘I must point out that there is only one China in the world and Taiwan is an inseparable part of the Chinese territory … The ‘one China’ principle is the political foundation of China-US relations.
‘We urge the relevant side in the US to adhere to the ‘one China’ policy, abide by the pledges in the three joint China-US communiques, and handle issues related to Taiwan carefully and properly to avoid causing unnecessary interference to the overall China-U.S. relationship.’
The ‘One China’ policy holds that Washington, while maintaining unofficial relations with Taiwan, does not recognize it as its own nation and therefore does not acknowledge its leaders as heads of state.
The dispute between Taiwan and Beijing began when the losing side of China’s 1949 Civil War fled to the island and continued to declare itself the rightful rulers of China. Military tensions have existed between the communist regime and Taipei ever since.
Trump’s opponents were quick to claim his phone call risked angering Beijing by seemingly disregarding decades of protocol built on America’s acknowledgment of the ‘One China’ policy.
Defending his phone call, Trump said: ‘Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.’
Hours earlier he confirmed his conversation with President Tsai who he said called him to congratulate him on his election win.
‘The President of Taiwan CALLED ME today to wish me congratulations on winning the Presidency. Thank you!’ he wrote.
The pair’s conversation on Friday is the first time a US president or president-elect has spoken with Taiwan’s leader directly since Jimmy Carter abandoned diplomatic relations with its government in 1979.
Meanwhile, China’s diplomatic protest after learning of the phone call between Trump and President Tsai Ing has caused many officials to speak out in concern.
Speaking earlier, hours after Friday’s telephone call, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi pointedly blamed Taiwan for the exchange, rather than Trump, a billionaire businessman with little foreign policy experience.
‘This is just the Taiwan side engaging in a petty action, and cannot change the ‘one China’ structure already formed by the international community,’ Wang said at an academic forum in Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry quoted him as saying.
‘I believe that it won’t change the longstanding ‘one China’ policy of the United States government.’
The US officially supports China’s position that Taiwan is part of its country. Trump’s phone call on Friday strayed from the government’s previous avoidance of any forthright contact with Taiwan. Above, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping at a climate summit in Paris in November, 2015
The US sided officially with China, which fosters a fragile relationship with the self-governing island, at the time and has continued to support its position that Taiwan is part of China and not an independent nation.
The government has however continued to allow the sale of weapons from US companies to Taiwan ever since, a business relationship that generates billions of American dollars.
The ongoing trade has strained the US’s relationship with its ally China which has made no secret of its readiness to launch a war if Taiwan tries to claim independence.
In December, the Obama administration sanctioned a $1.35billion shipment of defense weapons to Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, as tensions in the South Sea flared.
China protested to the shipment which it said ‘violated’ international laws and good faith.
They are not likely to be impressed by Trump’s conversation with the Taiwanese leader on Friday which, a spokesman for the president-elect said, involved discussions on the future of US-Taiwanese relations.
‘During the discussion, they noted the close economic, political, and security ties … between Taiwan and the United States,’ the spokesman said.
‘President-elect Trump also congratulated President Tsai on becoming President of Taiwan earlier this year,’ they said.
The White House was quick to insist there had been no change to the government’s official position after learning of the conversation once it had finished.
‘We remain firmly committed to our ‘one China’ policy. Our fundamental interest is in peaceful and stable cross-strait relations,’ said Ned Price, spokesman for the White House National Security Council.
CHINA BUILDS-UP SOUTH SEA ISLANDS
After decades of dispute, China began to reclaim parts of The Spratly Islands in the South Sea in 2014 and artificially enlarged their sand bases.
One was made large enough for an airfield and prompted speculation the Chinese were arming themselves in anticipation of disruption in the region.
US Navy officials spotted artillery vehicles on the strip last year. The US Navy has a base in the volatile area of sea.
Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter urgently called on the Chinese to halt construction, pointing out that none of the other claimants to the islands (Vietnam and The Philippines) had made such strides.
The US maintains unofficial relations with Taiwan but does not support its bids for independence.
The phone call is the latest indicator of how Trump plans to establish his own foreign and diplomatic policy when he takes office in January rather than following those in place.
He has apparently undertaken calls with foreign leaders without guidance customarily lent by the State Department, which oversees U.S. diplomacy.
China’s already shaky relations with Taiwan have been made even more temperamental in recent years due to an ongoing dispute over an archipelago of islands in the South Sea.
The Spratly Islands have been the object of an ongoing territory disagreement between China, Vietnam and The Philippines. In 2014, China began reclaiming portions of them and expanding them in size.
Soon, artillery vehicles and airfields were spotted. Fears the government had reclaimed the islets for military purposes grew as did speculation it was arming itself.
In 2014, aerial photographs revealed China was expanding on a recently reclaimed South Sea island
It worked on a handful of the islands at alarming pace, stretching them out until one was large enough for an airfield
Friday’s news came within hours of the Chinese President’s admission he is watching Trump ‘very closely’.
‘The presidential election has taken place in the United States and we are now in a key moment.
‘We on the Chinese side are watching the situation very closely. Now it is the transition period,’ Xi told former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger.
China was the target of repeated complaints made by Trump throughout his economy and jobs-focused campaign. He said the Chinese were ‘rebuilding’ their country through ‘piggy backing’ America.
CHINA’S FRAGILE RELATIONSHIP WITH TAIWAN
At the end of the Chinese Civil War in 1949, the overthrown Kuomintang government retreated to Taiwan to continue The Republic of China while the Chinese Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China on the mainland.
Both sides claimed to be the official governing party of China.
Taiwan had already been claimed by the ROC who were awarded temporary control of the island when Japan, its previous rulers, surrendered in the Second World War.
ROC officials continued to rule the island oppressively, moving its government from Beijing to Tapei in the hope it would be able to reclaim the mainland. This meant that despite being officially given the right to determine its rulers in the San Francisco Peace Treaty, the Taiwanese community continued to be governed by invaders.
In 1971, the UN recognized the CCP as the sole governing authority of all Chinese territories. It took away the Kuomintang party’s seat in the UN National Council and set in motion the severance of its relations with foreign governments.
The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 brought an end to America’s official relationship with Taiwan. In it, the US declared that Taiwan was part of China.
It vowed to uphold commercial and cultural relations with the country and also promised to arm the small island for the purposes of maintaining peace in the volatile South Sea.
The 1980s brought the end of martial law in Taiwan and saw the beginning of outside parties’ resurgence.
Peace between Taiwan and China since the Kuomingtang party was ousted in 2000 has depended on a mutual vow: Taiwan says it will not seek independence if China does not attack, and China vows not to attack so long as it doesn’t seek independence.
Each side has shown wavering faith in the deal. In 2001, President George W. Bush vowed to arm Taiwan should China invade.
In 2008, Chinese nationalists from the Kuomingtang party regained control and apologized for their predecessors bloody invasion of Taiwan after the Chinese civil war, a period which was known as white terror.
It marked the beginning of a brief period of warmth between the two sides. However in 2010, a US arms deal with Taiwan put the progress on ice.
Relations have been improving steadily through mutually signed commitments to trade and relations since.
The presence of artillery vehicles on Chinese-occupied islands in the South Sea alongside Taiwan’s sustained custom to US arms dealers threatens however continues to threaten unrest.