The U.S. ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, will step down from his position and return from the country in October, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing announced Monday.
Branstad, a former Iowa Republican governor who has served as ambassador to China since 2017, confirmed his decision to leave the position in a phone call to President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE last week, according to a news release from the embassy. The embassy did not mention a reason for his departure.
The ambassador will leave amid heightened tensions between China and the U.S. on topics including trade, technology and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Branstad, 73, said in an internal meeting on Monday that he was honored to serve and most proud of achieving "phase one" of a trade agreement earlier this year, according to the embassy.
“We are rebalancing the U.S.-China relationship so that it is fair and reciprocal and can fuel positive growth in both countries,” he said.
But the first phase of the long-awaited agreement between the countries after a trade war did not address major issues that the U.S. raised, The Associated Press noted.
Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoChristie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group America needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries Harris to hold fundraiser for McAuliffe ahead of Virginia governor's race MORE thanked Branstad for serving as ambassador in a Twitter statement, saying he was chosen because of “his decades long experience dealing with China.”
“Ambassador Branstad has contributed to rebalancing U.S.-China relations so that it is results-oriented, reciprocal, and fair,” he said in a post. “This will have lasting, positive effects on U.S. foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.”
President @realDonaldTrump chose Ambassador Branstad because his decades long experience dealing with China made him the best person to represent the Administration and to defend American interests and ideals in this important relationship.— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) September 14, 2020
The Trump administration has blamed China for the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19 and taken steps to ban Chinese technology companies like TikTok from the U.S.
Last week, China’s People’s Daily newspaper declined to publish a column written by Branstad, in which he said Beijing was “exploiting” U.S. openness in recent decades.
A newspaper spokesperson said the article was “full of loopholes, and seriously inconsistent with fact.” The newspaper said the U.S. Embassy contacted it and requested it be published without edits before Sept. 4.
Pompeo publicly condemned the government-run newspaper’s decision on Twitter, saying China’s ambassador to the U.S. is “free to publish in any U.S. media outlet.”