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Foreign Policy

Reactions to the Nomination of a New U.S. Ambassador to China

Mar 09 , 2011

Steve Orlins, President, the National Committee on US-China Relations:

With the nomination of a sitting member of his Cabinet as ambassador to China, President Obama is emphasizing the importance of the U.S.-China relationship.  It is extremely rare for a member of the Cabinet to accept an ambassadorial position.  By naming a Chinese-American to this position for the first time in history, the President is conveying the message that successful Chinese are a fundamental part of American life and have a critical role to play in the US-China relationship.

By nominating a former governor of one of America’s great exporting states and the sitting Secretary of Commerce, President Obama is telling the U.S. business community that trade and investment are a major priority of this administration.  As a Cabinet member, Secretary Locke chaired the Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade and is intimately familiar with the U.S.-China trade and investment issues.

The Chinese government and people should be proud that the new ambassador’s family are recent immigrants from China. They will understand that the appointment of a former Secretary of Commerce as ambassador demonstrates the President’s belief that the U.S.-China relationship is the most important bilateral relationship the United States has.

John Frisbie, President, the US-China Business Council:

Gary Locke is a great choice to serve as the next US ambassador to China. As a former elected official, he understands how ordinary Americans view the relationship with China. With his background as secretary of Commerce, he understands that trade and investment ties with China are important to American jobs and economic prosperity.

Secretary Locke made China one of his top priorities as Commerce secretary. He is focused on results, measured by both export growth and solving market access issues, and he understands how China works. He will be a respected and effective US ambassador to China.

Joseph Borich, President, the Washington State China Relations Council:

President Obama’s selection of Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke as the new Ambassador to China sends a message that America appreciates and values its relationship with China, and wants the relationship to continue to grow. Locke is highly regarded in China, and his appointment will signal that the Administration is attaching as much, if not more, importance to trade and economic issues as it did under Ambassador Huntsman.

Locke’s experience as governor of the state of Washington and as the current Secretary of Commerce would make him fully qualified to manage the economic relations aspect of our relations with China, at a minimum. As Washington’s governor, he had to drill deeply into the state’s business community, and the Washington-China trade relationship is one of the strongest in the nation.  The business leaders who know him in Washington are delighted with his appointment.

I also expect that the Chinese are overjoyed with the selection of Locke. He enjoys near-rock star status in China. If there are four things that the Chinese know about Washington state, they are 1) Boeing, 2) Microsoft, 3) Sleepless in Seattle, though I am not sure why, and 4) Gary Locke. The Chinese should and likely will regard his appointment as a positive step forward. China has been privy to a relatively unbroken line of highly competent U.S. ambassadors since relations were normalized, and Locke will continue that trend.

Tao Wenzhao, Senior Fellow, the Institute of American Studies, China Academy of Social Sciences

Gary Locke has unique advantages to serve this post. Firstly, he has rich experiences of engaging in politics. He served as governor of Washington State for two terms and Secretary of Commerce for more than two years. He knows well about politics, and how to deal with different departments of the government and the Congress. Secondly, he knows China-U.S. relations well. Washington State is one of the states, which have close relations with China. It has extensive connections with different provinces and cities in China. During his tenure as the governor and as the Secretary of Commerce, Mr. Locke made great efforts to develop economic and trade relations with China. Thirdly, over the past twenty years he has built extensive relationship  with the Chinese officials and business circles. Fourthly, he is a Chinese American, and this will help him understand the Chinese way of doing things. But of course, he is an American and will represent American interests in China. Still, we hope that during his tenure he will further promote the bilateral relations which are so important to both our countries.

Shen Dingli, Director and Professor, Center of American Studies, Fudan University

It is terrific that the Honorable Gary Locke has been appointed as the next US Ambassador to China.  As a leader who has key state and federal experiences, Mr. Locke has tremendous amount of credential to be entrusted.  He has already demonstrated great leadership doing his jobs in Seattle and Commerce, and in communicating between China and the US.  However, many have bet on his ethnic background, which is actually both his asset and challenge.  While China and the US have increasing amount of common interests, they divert on nearly equally good amount of divergent areas.  Promoting American interests that could undercut those of China, especially on the issue of Taiwan, and pushing China not hard enough, are especially challenging for him.  Mr. Locke could prove himself by turning the challenges to opportunities, and prepare himself for his further step.

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