Robert Wang: Public service matters

Updated: 2015-04-03 11:31

By Cai Chunying in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Robert Wang: Public service matters

Robert Wang, US Senior Official for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), served as deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Beijing under then US ambassadors to China Jon Huntsman and Gary Locke. [Photo by Cai Chunying / China Daily]

For Robert Wang, China's ongoing far-reaching anti-corruption campaign is of special relevance to his job at the US State Department. As the senior US official to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Wang, along with his counterparts from 20 other Pacific Rim economies within APEC, worked hard to boost anti-corruption effort in the region during the 22nd APEC meeting in Beijing last November.

As a result, the Beijing Declaration on Fighting Corruption was announced as one of the key outcomes of the annual gathering of national and regional leaders, to which China played host. A wide-ranging mechanism titled APEC Network of Anti-Corruption Authorities and Law Enforcement Agencies was set up to expand and improve cooperation throughout the region and promote success in participating nations' anti-corruption efforts.

"Corruption is a big problem. It creates a lot of resentment within society," said Wang, who also holds the title of economic policy coordinator for East Asia at the State Department and spends about a third of his time traveling in the APEC region.

"If you have corruption continuing, it hurts growth, then there will be instability. We see that across the world. In China now, President Xi Jinping sees the problem," said Wang during an exclusive interview with China Daily at his office at Foggy Bottom.

Earlier last week, China provided "a priority list of alleged Chinese corrupt officials" to the US and the two countries are stepping up efforts to fight corruption as the declaration pledged, according to media reports.

To Wang, APEC is where he sees China and US can work closely to address many regional and global issues and advance the important relationship between them.

Serving as the most senior official representing the US with APEC since August 2013, Wang seems to be a natural fit for the role. Throughout his 31-year diplomatic career, Wang spent most of his time in Asia, starting with his first assignment in Tokyo until his previous post as the deputy chief of mission at the US Embassy in Beijing under then US ambassador to China Gary Locke.

Being a diplomat, however, was not Wang's dream job from the start.

Coming to the US at the age of 12 from the Philippines in 1964, Wang's high school years were during one of the most turbulent times in US history - the Vietnam War.

Wang, along with other young people at the time, got involved in the debate about the war. The question of why there was a war in the first place puzzled him to the extent that he decided to major in political science to look for answers.

"My core interest was in international relations. I tried to figure out why there are so many wars, why normal rational people would do that, and what are the things we can do to avoid it," said Wang, who first went to Rutgers University and later transferred to the University of Washington in Seattle.

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