New US envoy hits ground running

Updated: 2014-03-19 08:26

By Li Xiaokun and Zhao Yanrong (China Daily USA)

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Baucus sets himself goal of visiting every province in China

Avid runner Max Baucus set himself an energetic target when he made his debut as US ambassador to China in Beijing on Tuesday.

"The Chinese philosopher Laozi famously said a journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step," Baucus said at a news conference.

The envoy said he will follow this advice and promised to "get out of the office, out of Beijing and travel around China as much as possible".

"The ambitious goal is to travel and visit every province and region in China," he said.

The 72-year-old envoy, who has a wealth of experience in dealing with China, spoke of three goals.

These are to strengthen economic relations between the world's two largest economies, cooperate with China on common global challenges, and deepen ties between the people of the two nations.

He vowed to handle economic issues in a way that is mutually beneficial and that ensures a level playing field for American businesses and workers to compete fairly with Chinese counterparts.

Baucus, who has been chairman of the Senate Finance Committee since 2007, has taken a hard line against China's trade practices, currency exchange rate and intellectual property rights protection.

Niu Xinchun, an American studies researcher at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said the comments by Baucus were not unexpected.

"It is normal for the US ambassador to make remarks on behalf of US interests. The goals reflect Washington's focus on China policies."

Niu said the main job of an ambassador is not to make decisions but to act as a bridge linking two governments.

"In that regard, Baucus is a good choice. He is an ambassador who can directly call the US president," he said, citing good personal relations between the envoy and US President Barack Obama.

Baucus also told Chinese and international media that he would do "everything possible to strengthen the people-to-people ties between us, including students, tourists, businesspeople and others", which he said will promote greater mutual trust.

His predecessor Gary Locke, the former US commerce secretary and the first Chinese-American ambassador to China, who ended his term early citing personal reasons, greatly reduced the waiting time for Chinese applying for US visas during his term.

Baucus recalled his first visit to China five decades ago during a one-year hitchhiking trip across the world in the early 1960s as a Stanford University student.

He has reportedly visited the country eight times and has hosted many trade delegations from China.

Baucus, who has spent most of his public life in the Senate, was the key person facilitating China's entry to the World Trade Organization in 2001. In his previous roles, he boosted the development of economic ties with Beijing.

"From my first official visits to China in 1993 to my most recent trip in 2010, I strengthened ties between our two countries. I look forward to continuing that work, to building a stronger relationship," he said.

In 2010, Baucus met Xi Jinping, now China's president, who was vice-president at the time.

"As President Xi has stressed a few times, the US and China have more common interests than differences. In his words, cooperation between our nations can drive stability," Baucus said.

Melodee Hanes, the envoy's wife, said in a video released on the US embassy website this week that her husband is an avid runner and that Beijing residents may even see him in the Beijing or Great Wall Marathons.

Journalists packed the embassy press room on Tuesday. Many media organizations have been following Baucus' schedule in past weeks ahead of his arrival in Beijing.

Some people queuing on Tuesday in front of the embassy to apply for US visas learned of the new ambassador's arrival.

"I hope he can help with China's interaction with US policymakers and benefit Chinese enterprises doing business with the US," said Qu Yanping, a private business owner.

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More about max baucus

He is an avid runner and completed a 50-mile (80-km) ultra marathon in just over 12 hours in 2003. Melodee Hanes, Baucus' wife, said Beijing residents may "even see him in the Beijing or the Great Wall Marathon".

In 1995 and 1996, Baucus walked the entire 820-mile length of Montana. He also enjoys hunting and fishing.

Born on Dec 11, 1941, he would be the oldest ambassador to Beijing since Sino-US diplomatic relations were re-established in 1979.

Unlike his predecessors, Baucus is the first US ambassador to Beijing in 13 years who does not speak Chinese.

He has been married three times and has one son. He earned his law degree from Stanford. His son, Zeno, is also a lawyer.

His great-grandfather, Henry Sieben, started the 125,000-acre (50,580-hectare) Sieben Ranch, which served as movie-set for the 1992 film A River Runs Through It.

His mother, Jean Baucus, was an author and historian.

His nephew, Marine Corporal Phillip E. Baucus, was killed in Iraq in 2006.

China Daily

Former Washington envoys to Beijing

New US envoy hits ground running

Leonard Freel Woodcock, 1979-81

He was the United States' first ambassador to China after World War II and helped open the US embassy in Beijing in 1979. As the head of the US liaison mission in China, Woodcock married and held a wedding party in Beijing in 1978.

New US envoy hits ground running

Arthur W. Hummel, Jr 1981-85

He was the first US ambassador to China to have been born in the country. His parents were Christian missionaries in Shanxi province and he later studied in Beijing.

New US envoy hits ground running

Winston Lord, 1985-89

He was the youngest diplomat in Henry Kissinger's delegation during the secret visit to China in 1971. The visit paved the way for a groundbreaking 1972 summit in Beijing that opened the door for exchanges between China and the US.

New US envoy hits ground running

James Roderick Lilley, 1989-91

He was born in Qingdao in 1928 and lived in China until 1940. He was the only US diplomat to have served as head of US missions on both the Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

New US envoy hits ground running

J. Stapleton Roy, 1991-95

He was born in Nanjing in 1935 and was fluent in Chinese. He was the first ambassador with experience of working in Hong Kong, Taipei and Beijing.

New US envoy hits ground running

James Ralph Sasser, 1995-99

He was believed to have invented the idea of the "China-US strategic cooperative partnership".

New US envoy hits ground running

Joseph W. Prueher, 1999-2001

He was the commander-in-chief of the US Pacific Command and paid seven visits to China. He proposed the establishment of a military hotline between China and the US.

New US envoy hits ground running

Clark T. Randt, Jr, 2001-09

He is fluent in Chinese and was a classmate of former president George W. Bush at Yale University. He was the longest serving US ambassador to China.

New US envoy hits ground running

Jon M. Huntsman, Jr, 2009-11

He was appointed as the US ambassador to Singapore when he was 32, becoming the youngest US ambassador in a century. Huntsman and his wife adopted a Chinese girl.

New US envoy hits ground running

Gary Faye Locke 2011-14

He was the first Chinese-American to be appointed as the US ambassador to China. He was also the first incumbent cabinet member to take up the post since the two countries established diplomatic ties. Locke announced his resignation in November.

China Daily

 New US envoy hits ground running

Max Baucus holds his first news conference as US ambassador to China in Beijing on Tuesday. NG Han Guan / Associated Press

(China Daily USA 03/19/2014 page1)