US & Canada

Who is Trump's pick for China ambassador Terry Branstad?

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad leaving Trump Tower on 6 December Image copyright EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ
Image caption Iowa Governor Terry Branstad leaving Trump Tower on 6 December

President-elect Donald Trump has named Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as his pick for ambassador to China. Who is he and what are his views on China?

Governor Branstad is said to be an "old friend" to Chinese President Xi Jinping, and has known him for over 30 years beginning with Xi's various trips to Iowa.

China is Iowa's second-largest export market, after Canada, according to the US-China Business Council,. The state sold $1.4bn in crop products to the Asian nation in 2015.

"We welcome him to play a greater role in advancing the development of China-US relations," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang in a daily press briefing Wednesday.

Mr Trump had hinted at this outcome just days before the election, at a rally in Sioux City, Iowa, saying of the Republican governor, "I think there is no one that knows more about trade than him ... You would be our prime candidate to take care of China."

Image copyright Pool
Image caption Governor Branstad met Chinese President Xi Jinping at a forum for US and Chinese governors in 2015

Governor Branstad is the longest-serving US governor, with two non-consecutive terms that began in 1983 and 2011. Before that, he was elected to three terms in Iowa House of Representatives and later served as the state's lieutenant governor.

President Xi and Governor Branstad first met during the governor's first term, in 1985, when Xi was still a bureaucrat on his first American trip. At the time, Xi stayed with a rural Iowan farming family, to underscore China's increasing interest and reliance on American agricultural products and equipment.

"We consider you a great friend of Iowa," Branstad told Xi when he returned once again on the verge of becoming the Chinese president in 2012.

Image copyright Pool
Image caption Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, Branstad and President Xi on a visit to China

Governor Branstad was an early supporter for president-elect Trump, endorsing him in May 2016.

"I think a lot of Americans don't want more of the same," Branstad said at the time.

Mr Branstad shares many of Trump's socially and fiscally conservative views: he is an advocate for small government and strongly pro-life.

Some see Mr Branstad's appointment as an olive branch of sorts to the Chinese, who are already leery of a Trump presidency after his unprecedented phone call with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen.