March 20, 2017

The biggest challenge awaiting Branstad in Beijing? President Trump

By Harry Krejsa

As the longest-serving governor in American history, no one can doubt the commitment of Iowa’s Terry Branstad to public service. He shows no signs of slowing down, however, as he prepares to become President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Beijing and U.S.-Chinese relations appear headed for a rough patch. Yet the greatest threat Branstad will face to a peaceful and prosperous relationship with China may not come from an increasingly aggressive Beijing, but rather from a White House so far unsure of any strategy but bluster. The incoming ambassador has experience standing up to outsized personalities to get things done — but will he continue to do so when that personality is sitting in the Oval Office?

Governor Branstad has overseen deepening commercial and cultural ties between Iowa and China, which will serve him well as he prepares to shoulder American interests in Asia. The Hawkeye State exports almost $15 billion of goods and services each year, nearly half of which goes to the Asia-Pacific. Food exports to China alone have doubled over just the last three years, with Chinese customers now buying a quarter of all Iowan soybeans.

In addition to Iowa’s growing status in the international marketplace, deepening people-to-people ties have thoroughly enriched the state’s culture and economy. Foreign-born Iowans make up more than 1,000 business owners, almost half of whom hail from Asia. 12,700 foreign students came to study in Iowa last year, including almost 6,000 Chinese students, contributing $366 million to the state’s economy. Branstad could use these successes as a model for mutually beneficial engagement with China — if the president lets him.

Read the full article at The Gazette.

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