China Can’t Make Up Its Mind On Trump

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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President-elect Donald Trump reportedly selected Governor of Iowa Terry Branstad as the U.S. ambassador to China, a move welcomed by the Chinese.

China’s foreign ministry praised Trump’s pick Wednesday, saying, “Branstad is an old friend of China and we welcome him to play a bigger role in China-US exchanges.”

“The role of US ambassador to China serves as an important bridge in communication between China and the United States, and no matter who is picked, China would like to work together with him to push forward healthy and stable development of China-US relations,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang added.

Branstad’s reported appointment comes at a time of heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington.

Trump accepted a call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen Friday, breaking with decades of diplomatic protocol and practice. The president-elect then defended the call Sunday by slamming China for manipulating its currency, engaging in unfair trade practices, and militarizing the South China Sea. Trump’s moves sparked strong criticisms from China.

China’s state media called Trump a “diplomatic rookie” Tuesday.

“Provoking friction and messing up China-US relations won’t help ‘make America great again,” the People’s Daily asserted.

The appointment of Branstad as ambassador may help alleviate certain U.S.-China tensions.

Branstad and Chinese President Xi Jinping have had a working relationship since 1985, when Xi was an agricultural official in Hebei. Xi made a trip to Iowa as part of a sister-state exchange program, reports the South China Morning Post.

When he was 32, Xi lived briefly in the small town of Muscatine, Iowa.

Xi visited Iowa again in 2012 before taking office as president the following year. During that trip, China said it would buy $4 billion in U.S. soybeans a year.

Since then, the U.S. has been sending significant quantities of agricultural exports to China.

As China is one of Iowa’s biggest export markets, Branstad may be well-suited to address serious bilateral trade issues affecting U.S.-China ties, which include concerns over Chinese steel and aluminum dumping and China’s unwillingness to lift anti-dumping measures on certain U.S. agricultural products.

“This really sends a message that Donald Trump wants to handle China at the bilateral relationship level,” Professor Huang Jing, a Chinese politics expert at the National University of Singapore, told Reuters.

During Xi’s 2012 visit to Iowa, Branstad treated him to an elaborate dinner in the capital.

Brandstad met with Xi as a friend in Beijing in 2013, and his friendship with China is cited as one of the reasons he may have been selected for the ambassador position.

Two days before the presidential election, Trump reportedly identified Branstad as an ideal choice for a liaison to China, saying, “You would be a prime candidate to take care of China.”

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