The US ambassador to China will step down early next month, after a Chinese state newspaper refused to publish an opinion piece written by the outgoing diplomat.
- Mr Brandstad will leave the post after more than three years in the role
- China’s official People’s Daily newspaper rejected an opinion piece he had recently written saying it was “seriously inconsistent”
- The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Chinese Government of “hypocrisy” over the piece
Terry Branstad, appointed by President Donald Trump in 2017, confirmed his decision in a phone call with Mr Trump last week, the US Embassy said.
It did not give a reason for his departure.
“I am proudest of our work in getting the phase one trade deal and delivering tangible results for our communities back home,” Mr Branstad said.
Word of his departure leaked when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo thanked Mr Branstad on Twitter for his service.
“Ambassador Branstad has contributed to rebalancing US-China relations so that it is results-oriented, reciprocal, and fair,” Mr Pompeo wrote.
China’s foreign ministry said before the embassy announcement that it was aware of Mr Pompeo’s tweet but had not received any notification that Mr Branstad was leaving.
Controversy over an opinion piece
Mr Branstad became embroiled in controversy recently when China’s official People’s Daily newspaper rejected an opinion column he had written.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that Mr Branstad’s article was “full of loopholes, seriously inconsistent with facts and wantonly attacks and smears China”.
The US Embassy had contacted the People’s Daily on August 26 about the piece, asking that it be printed in full without any edits before September 4, the People’s Daily said in a statement.
Mr Pompeo attacked the Chinese government’s decision.
“[It shows] Beijing’s hypocrisy when it complains about lack of fair and reciprocal treatment in other countries,” Mr Pompeo said.
The strongly worded comments from both sides come amid growing tensions between the two countries.
China recently announced new restrictions on the activities of US diplomats working in mainland China and Hong Kong, in what it called a justified response to similar measures imposed on Chinese diplomats in the US last year.
Trade relations have also soured between the two superpowers, after the US imposed tariffs on Chinese products and China retaliated in kind.
It follows ongoing disputes over technology, human rights and the response to the coronavirus pandemic.