INTERNATIONAL

U.S. Ambassador to China to step down next month

Terry Branstad

Terry Branstad  

The U.S. Ambassador to China will step down early next month, ending a three-year tenure 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 Mr. Trump last week, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. It did not give a reason for his departure.

“I am proudest of our work in getting the phase one trade deal and delivering tangible results for our communities back home,” he was quoted as saying at an embassy staff meeting on Monday.

Word of his departure leaked out earlier in the day when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Mr. Branstad on Twitter for his service.

“Ambassador Branstad has contributed to rebalancing U.S.-China relations so that it is results-oriented, reciprocal, and fair,” Mr. Pompeo wrote in a tweet.

Mr. Branstad became embroiled in a recent controversy when China’s official People’s Daily newspaper rejected an opinion column that he had written.

Mr. Pompeo tweeted last week that China’s Communist Party refused to run Mr. Branstad’s op-ed while the Chinese Ambassador to the U.S. “is free to publish in any U.S. media outlet.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian responded that Mr. Branstad’s article was “full of loopholes, seriously inconsistent with facts and wantonly attacks and smears China.”

The U.S. Embassy had contacted the People’s Daily on August 26 about the piece, asking that it be printed in full without any edits before September 4, the People’s Daily said.

Mr. Branstad, 73,was Republican Governor of Iowa for 22 years over two spans. Soon after arriving in Beijing in June 2017, Mr. Branstad welcomed American beef back to the Chinese market after a 14-year ban, saying “I know it is a key priority of the President to reduce the trade deficit, and this is one of the ways we can do it.”

But trade relations quickly soured, as the U.S. imposed tariffs on Chinese products and China retaliated in kind. Other disputes followed over technology, human rights and the response to the pandemic.

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