Branstad is expected to leave Beijing before the November US Presidential election, the source said.
“President (Donald Trump) chose Ambassador Branstad because his decades-long experience dealing with China made him the best person to represent the Administration and to defend American interests and ideals in this important relationship,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo didn’t give a reason for Branstad’s departure, or any announcement about a potential successor to the important diplomatic post.
Branstad was one of then-President-elect Trump’s first ambassadorial picks in December 2016, shortly after Trump won the US Presidential election.
During that period, the two were believed to have maintained a friendship of sorts, with Xi meeting again with Branstad during a visit to the US in 2012 while still vice-president.
Originally Branstad’s appointment was welcomed by Beijing, with Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang lauding him as an “old friend of the Chinese people.”
But Branstad has overseen one of the rockiest periods of US-China relations in recent history. Since his appointment, the Trump administration has placed tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese goods as part of a long-running trade war. It has also banned Chinese technology firms such as Huawei from the country’s communications infrastructure and receiving US components, and tightened visa restrictions on Chinese state media journalists working in the US.
“If you do wish to publish this op-ed in the People’s Daily, you should make substantive revisions based on facts in the principle of equality and mutual respect,” the state media publication said in its rejection letter.