Scott Walker’s harsh talk today on Chinese President Xi Jinping may be aimed at positioning himself as a tough negotiator in American-Chinese relations, but it could end up hurting his relations on a more pressing political front: Iowa and its Governor, Terry Branstad.
After the Dow experienced a 3.6% drop today following a major fall in the Chinese stock markets, several Republican presidential candidates took to Twitter to re-up their criticism of China’s role in the world economy. Donald Trump suggested America was too closely tied with the Asian markets, leaving the country more vulnerable to their economic downturns. Walker, however, seemed to take the conversation a step further by calling on President Obama to rescind President Xi’s invitation to an official White House state visit next month.
We need to see some backbone from Obama on U.S.-China relations. He needs to cancel Chinese President Xi Jinping's state visit. – SW
— Scott Walker (@ScottWalker) August 24, 2015
Walker’s communication team has pointed out throughout the day that their candidate has been critical of China’s currency manipulation and trade practices since his announcement speech, and brings it up often on the trail. Still, canceling a formal visit with the leader of the world’s top economy that’s closely tied with American imports and debt would be a major snub certain to cause serious diplomatic ramifications.
Such a move likely wouldn’t sit well with Iowa Governor Terry Branstad, a close friend of President Xi. The two men have a long and productive history together. “Branstad has perhaps as close and unique a relationship with the new Chinese leader as any politician in the United States — going back decades and strengthened by several meetings in just the last two years,” the Des Moines Register wrote back in 2013. Iowa agribusiness is closely tied with China and state officials have worked well with Chinese businesses and government agencies over the years.
Walker should know – both he and Branstad participated in a trade mission to China where they met Xi. China is also an important enough partner with Walker’s home state of Wisconsin that his state has two trade missions to China planned in 2016.
Governor Branstad has made clear his preference for presidential candidates with executive gubernatorial experience like his own. As Jennifer Jacobs noted, Branstad chose to walk the State Fair with just three candidates – all current or former Governors of Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and John Kasich, while Kim Reynolds joined Scott Walker as well. Christie and Kasich are polling poorly in Iowa, and may not compete heavily here. Coming out so strongly against Branstad’s close friend and economic partner will likely do Walker no favors with the well-respected Iowa governor. For a candidate who’s been struggling in Iowa lately – a must-win state for this neighboring Governor – Walker can’t afford to lose any more support in the lead-off caucus state.
by Pat Rynard