New ambassador new hope
Updated: 2011-08-15 08:04
By Tao Wenzhao (China Daily)
Gary Locke's appointment is a sign that US president Barack Obama is seeking to further improve relations with China
As the first Chinese American to hold Washington's ambassadorial post to China, Gary Locke was warmly welcomed when he arrived in Beijing on Friday evening. Many in China hope his Chinese ancestry will help him be a bridge between China and the United States and between the two peoples.
However, we should not pin too many hopes on him adopting a more pro-China approach than his predecessors because of his ancestry. As US ambassador to China, Locke will work to serve the US national interests.
The majority of citizens in the US are immigrants or their descendents. Incumbent US president Barack Obama's father was a Kenyan and his grandmother still lives in Kenya. Very few in the US care much about other people's ancestry, and it is not rare that the descendants of immigrants have been appointed as US ambassadors to other countries, which might explain why no one expressed concerns over Locke's Chinese ancestry and found fault with his ambassadorial qualifications during his recent Senate confirmation hearings.
Most US ambassadors to Asian countries are career diplomats, although some have been appointed for specific political reasons, such as former US ambassadors to China Leonard Woodcock, James Sasser, Joseph Prueher, and Clark Randt. Ambassadors appointed for political reasons are usually on good terms with the US president. For example, Woodcock had a private friendship with former US President Jimmy Carter and Randt also enjoyed good relations with George W. Bush.
Locke's appointment is also out of political needs, but, as Obama and US State Secretary Hillary Clinton have said, no one is more qualified than Locke to be the US ambassador to China. The Yale-educated Locke worked for eight years as governor of the state of Washington, which has long been regarded as an important door to China. As one of the states that set up earliest links with China, the state of Washington has enjoyed traditional commercial and trade ties with China.
Over the past three decades since China's reform and opening-up, generations of Chinese leaders, including former leader Deng Xiaoping, former president Jiang Zemin and President Hu Jintao, all visited the western state of the US several times.
During his two terms of office as governor of the state, Locke did a lot of work to develop commercial and trade ties between the US state and China. With his support, China Southern opened a direct flight between Guangzhou and Seattle, and a large construction company in Seattle struck a deal to participate in the construction of some venues for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Boeing and Microsoft, two companies with extensive commercial connections with China, are based there.
His appointment as US Secretary of Commerce after Obama took office has drawn him closer economically with China and his experience will help him handle bilateral trade disputes and he will be able to develop economic and trade ties with China.
Locke's knowledge of China, his connections with people in Chinese political and business circles, as well as his rich experience in handling economic and trade ties with China, made him the most desirable candidate to be the new US ambassador to China. This is particularly true at a time when the Obama administration is struggling to fight a lingering economic malaise, realize his ambitions to double US exports within five years and create more employment chances.
Sharing ever-expanding common interests, China and the US have increasingly become economically interdependent. The two countries should turn to dialogue and consultation instead of confrontation in the case of disagreements. Past practices prove that China and the US both benefit from cooperation and suffer from confrontation. It is China's aspiration and also in the US interests to promote a stable Sino-US relationship and work for its improvement.
Obama's appointment of Locke as the new US ambassador to China is the US administration's goodwill gesture to Beijing. It is also a reflection of Obama's wishes to promote a positive, cooperative and all-round relationship with China.
The author is a senior research scholar with the Center for US-China Relations at Tsinghua University.
(China Daily 08/15/2011 page8)
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