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Xi's friend Branstad approved as US ambassador

By Zhao Huanxin in New York (China Daily) Updated: 2017-05-24 07:29

The US Senate overwhelmingly confirmed Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as ambassador to China on Monday, placing a man who is the friend of both countries' presidents in a position to "positively influence the US-China relationship".

Branstad, 70, was confirmed in an 82-13 vote, after the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved his nomination on May 9. He will resign as Iowa governor on Wednesday and immediately be sworn in as US ambassador to China, the governor's office said in a news release.

Surrounded by staff and family, the gray-haired and mustachioed governor watched the Senate confirm his nomination, he tweeted.

Immediately after the vote, Branstad said, "I look forward to working with both my friend President Donald Trump and my old friend President Xi Jinping for the mutual benefit of both of our countries and the rest of the world."

Xi's friend Branstad approved as US ambassador

At his confirmation hearing on May 2, Branstad said the US relationship with China is multifaceted, and not solely focused on trade. He said the two countries must work together on critical security issues, including on the Korean Peninsula and cybersecurity.

Dennis Wilder, a senior fellow at the Initiative for US-China Dialogue on Global Issues at Georgetown University, stressed the importance of Branstad's personal relationships with both leaders.

"It would be much easier for Branstad to do his job, because he can speak to the two of them as a friend," the former senior director for East Asian Affairs at the National Security Council recently told China Daily.

Branstad has been serving his sixth term as Iowa's governor, having been at the helm of the state's government from 1983 to 1999 and since 2011, making him is United States' longest-serving governor.

Branstad met Xi, in 1985, when the future president visited the state as a county leader from North China. Their friendship has since grown, and Branstad has visited China multiple times.

Li Zhao, president of China operations for the China Iowa Group, said she traveled with Branstad to China in 2013 and witnessed how he worked on promoting Iowa businesses.

"In his new role, he will be applying the same passion in promoting all US goods and services, but we know Iowa has a special place in his heart," Zhao said.

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