Trump picks Iowa Gov. Branstad as ambassador to China

President-elect Donald Trump has picked Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad for the key post of U.S. Ambassador to China, the transition team announced Wednesday

Branstad met with Trump at Trump Tower in New York Tuesday afternoon.

“Governor Branstad’s decades of experience in public service and long-time relationship with President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders make him the ideal choice to serve as America’s Ambassador to China,” Trump said in a statement.

"After long discussions with my family, I am honored and humbled to accept President-elect Trump’s nomination to represent our great country as Ambassador to China," Branstad said. "I have known President Xi Jinping for many years and consider him an old friend. I look forward to building on our long friendship to cultivate and strengthen the relationship between our two countries and to benefit our economy."

Trump's offer was first reported by Bloomberg.

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will hold a "Thank You" rally for supporters in Des Moines on Thursday. In last month's presidential election, Iowa voters backed the Republican ticket for just the second time since 1984.

Branstad, 70, was an early and staunch supporter of Trump, and his son, Eric, served as the state director for Trump's campaign in Iowa.

Branstad would assume the post at a pivotal moment in U.S-China relations, following Trump's Dec. 2 phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

The conversation broke nearly four decades of U.S. diplomatic protocol. Trump followed that with a series of Twitter posts over the weekend challenging China's trade and military policies.

As a presidential candidate, Trump repeatedly accused China of manipulating its currency and trying to "rape our country" with unfair trade policies.

Bloomberg reported that Branstad has a longstanding relationship with President Xi. Branstad first met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 1985, when Xi, then a provincial agricultural official, visited Iowa.

More recently, Brandstad gave a dinner for Xi in Des Moines in 2012 and has visited China four times in the past seven years.

At a campaign rally in Sioux City Nov. 6, Trump called Branstad up to the stage, saying the governor "would be our prime candidate to take care of China."

Trump has pledged to be more "unpredictable" on the world stage, billing the approach as a much-needed change from President Barack Obama's deliberative style and public forecasting about U.S. policy. But Trump's unpredictability is likely to unnerve both allies and adversaries, leaving glaring questions about whether the foreign policy novice is carrying out planned strategies or acting on impulse.

China's authoritarian government likes predictability in its dealings with other nations, particularly the United States. The U.S. and China are the world's two largest economies with bilateral trade in goods and services reaching nearly $660 billion last year.

While there have been sharp differences between Beijing and Washington on China's island building in the South China Sea and over alleged Chinese cybertheft of U.S. commercial secrets, the two powers have cooperated effectively on climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.

Fox News' Serafin Gomez and the Associated Press contributed to this report.