Locke's aim: A win-win situation for China and the US

Updated: 2011-03-25 10:50

By Zhang Guoqing (China Daily)

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Recently Gary Locke, the United States commerce secretary, was nominated as the next ambassador to China. As a Chinese American, the emergence of Locke has made many people's imagination about the future Sino-US relations fly high.

Hold on to the reins of your excitement for a while. Undeniably, the nomination is a gesture of goodwill from the US. But the real purpose is to increase US employment and to better serve American enterprises in China. It is also another effort to rip off the label of "anti-business" posted by the Wall Street as soon as possible.

Therefore, we better accept that the nomination is a rational choice of Obama administration. The real purpose is to better deal with China, or gain better interests for the US, through an old China hand.

In making the nomination, what the US President Barack Obama values most is Locke's business background as well as his expertise on trade relations with China.

When Locke was still the governor of Washington, he visited China several times to discuss trade issues. And Washington is often regarded as the state with the highest dependence on foreign trade in the US, because some large companies such as Boeing have manufacturing bases there.

As commerce secretary, Locke has also been a loyal supporter and advocate of Obama's plan of doubling US exports in five years. Every time he visited China, he made clear efforts to help the plan. And his job was indeed effective last year, with a 34 percent growth in exports from the US to China.

Locke's arrival may strengthen Sino-US cooperation in the new energy field. It is noticeable that over the past two years, together with Steven Chu, the US energy secretary and another Chinese American, Locke advocated "green diplomacy" and Sino-US collaboration in new energy and environmental protection.

Without a doubt, a win-win situation would be achieved if the two countries could accelerate the new energy cooperation with harmonious bilateral ties.

In China, more than two-thirds of its energy relies on coal, while the US has the world's largest coal reserves. Thus these two countries have great potential for cooperation.

What's more, in terms of energy-saving technology and clean energy, the US could inspire China with its technology and management experience.

Besides, Sino-US energy and environmental cooperation would also help boost China's economy.

Today, with advantages in price and volume, China's clean energy products have developed their own competitiveness. Meanwhile, China has also become the world's largest producer of solar panels. If China were to further develop its technology and management, the industry would drive the national economy as well as social progress.

For the US, the huge market potential in China should not be neglected. If Locke can continue to actively cooperate with Chu to advocate the cooperation of technology, investment and trade in the new energy field, and fully develop the market for the US, it would become a strong impetus for the economic recovery and even a new growth engine in the US.

Locke has paid great attention to issues such as yuan exchange rate and protection of intellectual property rights and effectively advanced the interests of US enterprises in China.

For a time, the interests of US enterprises in China have been one major difference of opinions for both sides. Since Locke well understands the major issues US companies face, he is likely to speak for their interests and put certain pressures on China.

In general, what Locke could contribute to Sino-US relations depends on Obama's overall strategy toward China and the political atmosphere in the US.

As Locke once said during a visit to China, the interdependence between the US and China is the closest in 30 years.

Compared with the huge differences and difficult communication many years ago, Sino-US relations are now smooth, and both sides are able to seek common ground while putting their differences aside.

This has given Locke a special mission: To be a bridge of communication that facilitates a win-win situation for China and the US.

The author is a scholar with the Institute of American Studies, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.


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