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Analysis. Trump has selected the former governor of Iowa, Terry Branstad, as ambassador to China, but is it enough to smooth over past transgressions?

To China, Trump sends an ‘old friend’ of Xi

Terry Branstad will likely be the next U.S. ambassador to China. The former governor of Iowa, who was connected to Trump throughout the election campaign — his son was the manager of the election race in that crucial state — is an “old friend” of the current Chinese president Xi Jinping. Branstad hosted Xi during his visit in Iowa, back when he was still an officer of the party. During that visit, the future Chinese leader learned the management techniques applied in that American state’s farms.

In the name of that old friendship, Branstad again hosted Xi shortly before his appointment as general secretary, when he went to the United States in 2012. Xi asked to stop in Iowa to greet the Branstad family, making a gesture about his gratitude to his hosts 20 years prior and opening up various speculations about his future “friendly” attitude toward the American superpower. On that occasion, Xi drew a demarcation line with respect to the “technocrats” who had preceded him in the Chinese government.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry exulted over the choice; immediately after the announcement released a statement saying it appreciated Trump’s choice. It could also be read as a sort of reparation after the phone call between Trump and Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen last week that had annoyed China.

In this regard, the incident cannot be closed, even with the possible appointment of an ambassador very well liked in Beijing. China on Wednesday intimated that Tsai dare not make a “technical” transit stop in the United States during her trip to Central America (where a few countries are the only ones that formally recognize Taiwan).

And speaking of the controversial call, new details emerged that would make Trump’s gesture much more significant. According to The New York Times, it was not a gaffe but a plan designed by lobbyists and Taiwan to take advantage of the election of the new U.S. president to renew relations. The Times wrote that Republican lobbyist Bob Dole was working as a contractor for the government of Taipei in coordination also with the leaders of Trump’s campaign and his transition team. He earned for his services a sum of $140,000 between May to October, as clearly indicated on documents held by the Department of Justice.

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