Iowa Governor Branstad: Possible Role as Ambassador to China

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad delivers his annual condition of the state address before a joint session of the Iowa Legislature, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

It’s time for Iowa Governor Terry Branstad to move on.

Branstad is America’s longest serving governor. He served from 1983 to 1999. He then came back for a second term in 2011.

Bloomberg News is reporting, however, that his next position may be a bit further east.

Like, China.

Sources say the 70-year old governor, who has a long-term friendship with China’s President Xi Jinping, is the frontrunner for the job as Ambassador to China.

A decision may follow meetings between Branstad and members of President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team in New York in the coming week, said three people with knowledge of the matter.

The potential move to name Branstad comes at a time of heightened tensions with China after Trump abandoned almost four decades of diplomatic protocol on Friday by speaking directly with the leader of Taiwan, which Beijing considers a rogue province. Trump hasn’t named his choice for secretary of state, the top U.S. diplomatic post.

Branstad maintains that his priority is Iowa, but he’s not saying “No” to a position as ambassador, either.

Branstad’s amicable history with Xi may be one of the reasons Trump is eyeing him for the ambassador post. Two days before the Nov. 8 presidential election, during a rally in Sioux City, Trump singled out Branstad as an ideal liaison to China. “You would be our prime candidate to take care of China,” Trump said in calling the governor to the stage.

Branstad and Xi met when China’s leader made his first trip to Iowa in 1985 during a sister-state exchange. At the time Xi was a young agricultural official from Hebei province, working as director of the Feed Association of Shijiazhuang Prefecture.

They’ve had several visits since that first meeting, but as ambassador, the governor may have more pressing issues to address than just agriculture.

The first order of business would likely be to smooth the feathers ruffled by Trump’s Taiwan faux pas.

Secondly, Trump repeatedly called out China on the campaign trail, naming them as “manipulators” of currency, state-sponsored hackers, and other things that could make the life of the guy charged with keeping the peace a living nightmare.

The deal isn’t final, but Branstad will be in New York next week. Perhaps an answer will come shortly thereafter.