Gary Locke is coming to town

By Zhou Luxi
0 CommentsPrint E-mail, March 17, 2011
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 Gary Locke

US President Barack Obama's historic nomination of sitting Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke to be the first Chinese-American to serve as US Ambassador to China has aroused mixed feelings among the Chinese people. There is an obvious sense of pride among Chinese that a Chinese-American would be assigned to a top US diplomatic post, if Locke is confirmed by the US Senate this week. The perception, however, that Locke will be more sympathetic to China compared to his predecessor, Ambassador Jon Huntsman, is thus far unsubstantiated.

Secretary Locke, a third-generation Chinese immigrant born and raised in the States, has already made it very clear that he is an American whose main priority is to defend US national interests. As Commerce Secretary, Locke pressed China to eliminate trade barriers for US companies and pushed for China to revalue its currency. He has also stood up for protection of US intellectual property rights.

Some people have said that Locke's appointment has only satisfied two groups of people: Chinese nationals and American CEOs. Regardless of such commentary, President Obama's decision to appoint Locke to this crucial post indeed demonstrates that the US-China strategic partnership, particularly Sino-US economic ties, has become a key interest in Washington.

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Locke's knowledge about China stems mainly from his travels to the country during his eight years as governor of Washington State and his practice at the Seattle-based law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, which focused heavily on China-related issues. Despite this experience and his Chinese ancestry, Locke has never lived in China nor does he speak Mandarin Chinese, unlike the current Ambassador Huntsman. Washington seems to be making a strategic adjustment in sending Locke to Beijing, hoping a Chinese face will help foster mutual trust between the two countries.

Some Chinese worry that Locke might take a harder-line stance on diplomacy than a non-Chinese American ambassador would in order to demonstrate loyalty to his country. However, this fear is completely groundless.

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