President-elect Donald Trump has chosen Iowa Republican Gov. Terry Branstad to be his ambassador to China, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Branstad, the longest-serving governor in U.S. history, met with the Trump in New York City on Tuesday, where he said he had a "very cordial conversation" with the president-elect.
The Trump transition team has not yet formally announced the appointment. A transition official, however, confirmed the appointment to the Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Branstad met President Xi Jinping in 1985 while Jinping was visiting Iowa on an agriculture trip. The two have stayed in close contact through the years, using their mutual interest in agriculture to help bridge their many political and cultural differences, according to Bloomberg. Given their cozy relationship, Branstad's appointment could help U.S. relations with China. The country's foreign ministry in a statement welcomed the selection:
First of all, I would like to say that Mr. Branstad is an old friend of the Chinese people and we welcome him to play a greater role in promoting Sino-U. S. relations. The U.S. ambassador to China is an important bridge between the U.S. government and the Chinese government. No matter who is in this position, we are willing to work with him to push forward the sound, steady and steady development of Sino-U. S. relations.
If confirmed by the Senate, Branstad faces an enormous task mending diplomatic bridges after Trump's many statements during the campaign in which he bashed China for "manipulating" its currency and "taking advantage" of the U.S. and its trade laws.
More recently, Trump upset many within the Chinese government when he accepted a phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen, making him the first U.S. president or president-elect to speak with a Taiwanese leader since 1979. China still considers the island its own, despite the Taiwanese people regarding themselves as separate.