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US ambassador to China stepping down

US ambassador to China stepping down
© Getty Images

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 TrumpHarry Reid reacts to Boehner book excerpt: 'We didn't mince words' Man arrested for allegedly threatening to stab undercover Asian officer in NYC Trump says GOP will take White House in 2024 in prepared speech 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. 

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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 PompeoBiden loves the Georgia boycott — So why won't he boycott the Beijing Olympic games? The Hill's Morning Report - Biden assails 'epidemic' of gun violence amid SC, Texas shootings Five things to watch for at the GOP's donor retreat 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.”

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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.”