US Senate confirms Max Baucus as new ambassador to China

Updated: 2014-02-07 06:43


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WASHINGTON - The US Senate on Thursday confirmed Senator Max Baucus as the next ambassador to China.

Senators voted 96-0 to give final approval to the nomination of Baucus. President Barack Obama named him for the top US diplomatic post in China in December to replace Gary Locke, the incumbent ambassador.  Locke is to step down early this year.

US Senate confirms Max Baucus as new ambassador to China

US Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) questions Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at a hearing in Washington in this file photo taken November 6, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

In remarks after the vote, Baucus, 72, said he would never have run for office if not for a year he spent in the early 1960s hitchhiking around the world. While thanking his wife and children, Baucus said his mother, who died in 2011, would have been " incredibly excited and fascinated" with his new post.      

"He is an excellent choice that President Obama made to represent us in China," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said before the vote. "Although Sen. Baucus will be missed by the entire Democratic Caucus, our loss will be the nation's gain."

A Montana Democrat, Baucus is currently chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. Before his election to the Senate in 1978, he was a member of the US House of Representatives from 1975 to 1978. He served in the Montana House of Representatives from 1973 to 1974.

Baucus led the US efforts to admit China to the World Trade Organization and to grant China the status of permanent normal trade relations in 1990s. He has made eight trips to China and met with several top Chinese leaders.

Speaking at his confirmation hearing held late last month by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the Senator pledged to work hard to strengthen US-China relationship, which he called " one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world," and vowed to get the China-US relationship right, because it will shape global affairs for generations to come.

Baucus has learned some core lessons from his trips to foreign countries in the past decades as a US Senator.

"Among the most important, I have become a firm believer that a strong geopolitical relationship can be born out of a strong economic relationship, which often begins with trade," said Baucus, who added he also looked forward to continuing the economic diplomacy to build "a stronger, more equitable economic relationship" between the United States and China.

"Leaders from both sides have recognized that we have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict," he said. "I believe that as well, and I see many areas of our relationship where cooperation is not only possible, but vital."

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