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U.S. Ambassador to China leaving post early, will campaign for Trump

U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad announced on Monday that he will retire from his position and return to the United States by early October. The move came as a surprise to many but not necessarily to those who know Branstad best.

The former six-term governor of Iowa is a force to be reckoned with on the campaign trail and has never personally lost an election. Branstad’s son Eric serves as Trump’s Iowa state chair and had previously said his father was unlikely to serve another term as ambassador.

Trump hinted that Branstad was returning to hit the campaign trail during a call with Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst (R) that was posted to Twitter on Saturday.

“You know Eric’s father is coming home from China because he wants to campaign,” Trump said. “We’ve got a real team. We ride together.”

Sources close to Trump say the president believes that the ambassador is the best person to speak on China during the campaign and still has a wealth of support amongst Midwesterners.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Branstad for his service overseas.

“I thank Ambassador Terry Branstad for his more than three years of service to the American people as U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China,” Pompeo tweeted. “Ambassador Branstad has contributed to rebalancing U.S.-China relations so that it is results-oriented, reciprocal, and fair. This will have lasting, positive effects on U.S. foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.”

Branstad was appointed by Trump and arrived in Beijing in June 2017. He has a long relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping who was part of a delegation to Iowa back in 1985 where he first met then Governor Branstad. Xi made a point to stop in Iowa again in 2012 as vice president where he told Iowans they were dear friends.

“You were the first group of Americans I came into contact with,” Xi said. “To me, you are America.”

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) took over when Branstad resigned to become U.S. Ambassador to China. She had served as his Lt. Governor and also played a key role in developing trade relationships with China. Reynold’s said that Branstad represented America during one of the most challenging times for diplomacy.

“As Ambassador to China, Terry used his work ethic, dedication, love for Iowa ag, and his long-time friendship with the Chinese people to represent us during some of the most challenging times for trade and diplomacy. Grateful for his service and proud to welcome him back home,” Reynolds tweeted.

Branstad’s term runs through January and no successor was immediately announced.

PHOTO: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File

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