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New ambassador Locke promises closer Sino-US ties

By Daniel Xu and Ke Wang
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 14, 2011
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The new U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke formally met with the press for the first time Sunday after arriving in Beijing the day before.

Locke was appointed by U.S. President Barack Obama in March after the previous ambassador Jon Huntsman resigned. The U.S. Senate confirmed the appointment on July 27.

"The United States and China have a profoundly important and complex diplomatic and economic bilateral relationship – one with challenges, no question, but one which also holds great promises for expanded cooperation and collaboration," Locke, surrounded by his wife and three children, told the press gathered in the courtyard in front of his new Beijing residence.

U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke and his family.

Locke is the first Chinese American to hold this post. Born into an immigrant family in 1950, Locke did not learn to speak English until the age of 5. In 1997, he became the first governor of a Continental U.S. state of Asian descent. After serving two terms as the governor of Washington, he joined Obama's cabinet as the Commerce Secretary.

"I think being a Chinese American, I have a greater sensitivity and understanding of the history and culture of China," Locke said. "But I am here as a representative of the American government, and the American government wants closer, more collaborative and cooperative relations with the people and government of China."

Locke's grandfather first moved to the U.S. a little over a century ago. His father, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II, passed away in January. Locke said he can only imagine how proud his dad would be for his son to be the first Chinese-American to represent the U.S. in the land of his birth.

Locke will assume the head diplomatic post at a delicate period of the China-U.S. relationship. The two world superpowers only recently resumed military relations after China cut off such ties in response to U.S.'s newest weapons deal with Taiwan.

Locke responded to questions during a post-conference meet-and-greet on this issue by saying that U.S. policies with regards to Taiwan are clear and will not change.

During the setting, concerns of U.S. debt troubles were also raised by surrounding reporters, questioning whether China's holdings of U.S. debt would influence its policies. Locke pointed out that although China is the largest holder of U.S. debt, the amount being held by foreign countries still only constitutes "a very, very small fraction" of the sum, where the majority is in the hands of domestic investors and institutions.

"Nonetheless, the United States is committed to getting its fiscal house in order," he said. "The agreement that the Congress and the president put together a few weeks ago calls for significant reduction in U.S. spending with further reductions in years ahead."

Still, Locke's first order of business will be to settle down and become accustomed to his new environment.

"We've been unpacking, getting some Chinese food – we love Chinese food," Locke said of his immediate plans. "Also getting the kids ready for school."

Locke's children, Emily, 14, Dylan, 12, and Madeline, 6, will be attending international schools in Beijing and learning Chinese. Locke said his whole family is very excited about the opportunity to make new friendships.

According to the U.S. Embassy press office, Locke will be meeting with various Chinese government officials in the coming weeks including President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao. Locke's arrival in Beijing also precedes a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden later this month.

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