Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has been tapped to be ambassador to China by President-elect Donald Trump — an offer the governor said he was "honored and humbled" to accept.
Branstad, a Republican who is the longest serving governor in U.S. history, is described as an "old friend" of Chinese President Xi Jinping and accepted the offer just a day after meeting with Trump in New York with his wife.
"I have known President Xi Jinping for many years and consider him an old friend," Branstad said. "I look forward to building on our long friendship to cultivate and strengthen the relationship between our two countries and to benefit our economy."
Trump said the appointment will serve Branstad well "as he represents America’s interests and further develops a mutually beneficial relationship with Chinese leadership.”
“Governor Branstad’s decades of experience in public service and long-time relationship with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders make him the ideal choice to serve as America’s ambassador to China,” Trump said. “He successfully developed close trade ties with China while serving as chief executive of the Hawkeye State."
Branstad has led half-a-dozen trade missions to China dating back to 1984 during his first reign as governor. As recently as a week after the November election, Branstad was in Beijing and the Hebei province for a mission.
His new post in China may prove difficult, as Trump broke with longstanding U.S. diplomatic tradition when he took a phone call from Taiwanese President Tsai Ing last week. The call risks raising tensions with China.
Branstad would also need to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, which longtime U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley said would be done "very easily."
"Governor Branstad understands China, having been there on numerous trade missions and having a friendship with President Xi Jinping," Grassley said. "Iowans have chosen him for his successful track record as the chief executive, his trustworthiness and his reputation as a straight shooter. Those attributes would serve the United States very well if he’s confirmed for this position."
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said Trump made an "excellent choice" with his pick of Branstad.
"Having worked alongside the governor for many years, I know he will exemplify the same leadership, thoughtfulness and dedication in his role as ambassador to China on behalf of the United States as he did for the people of Iowa," she said.
Branstad's appointment immediately knocked over political dominos in Des Moines as Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds prepares to take over as the state's top executive.
"I have been honored to be a full partner with Gov. Branstad in this administration and know that the experience I’ve gained over the last six years has prepared me well for this next chapter of service to all Iowans," she said.
Ernst, who in 2014 became the first woman to serve as U.S. senator from Iowa, heaped praise on Reynolds, whose rise will now become the woman to serve as a governor.
"The lieutenant governor is a tireless advocate for Iowa and travels around our great state to ensure she is hearing directly from those who know best: Iowans," Ernst said. "Iowa has been, and will continue to be, in good hands under her leadership.”
Iowa Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, the first female state speaker, will lead another legislative cycle Republican majority in the House, along with a new Senate GOP majority and Reynolds.
"Lt. Gov. Reynolds is an energetic leader with years of experience working with the Legislature," she said. "I look forward to continue working closely with her to make Iowa the premier place to raise a family or grow a business. Iowa Republicans continue to lead the way elevating women to public office.”
As Terry Branstad serves out his record-setting reign as governor, Iowa Secretary of Agricul…
Elsewhere, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, who told the Daily in September he was having serious conversations on a run for governor, reversed course and said he would not run, instead encouraging Iowa Republicans to back Reynolds.
"I encourage Iowa Republicans to unite behind Lt. Governor Reynolds, help ensure her election in 2018 and join me in working to keep Iowa red for the next generation," Northey said.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, also told The Hill newspaper that he spoke with Branstad on Wednesday morning, and a possible run for governor "immediately" popped into his head — although he added he was not actively planning one.