We were delivered some great news earlier in the week. President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke as his new U.S. Ambassador to China.
As Publisher Assunta Ng says in her blog, the first thing that came to her mind was: He doesn’t speak Mandarin.
The outgoing ambassador, Jon Huntsman, is fluent. So will the language barrier hurt Locke in China?
We don’t think so. In fact, we think Locke as an ambassador in China will ultimately be good for Sino-American relations, especially during a time when ties between Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao have been strained.
Gestures make a difference in China, and Locke needs all the help he can get to navigate the complicated bilateral economic tangle. Locke is the first ethnically Chinese U.S. ambassador to China. His wife, Mona, has family ties to the famed Sun Yat-sen. This is something that doesn’t go unnoticed in China. Though Locke has not spent a long time in China, the Chinese are already welcoming their prodigal son “home.” Having a Chinese American U.S. ambassador could allow the United States to gain diplomatic advantage.
It needs it, too. In the last year, the United States recorded a $273 billion trade deficit with China.
Now, there may be a few Americans who question Locke’s loyalty to the United States due to this ethnicity. People may wonder if he’d protect China’s interests over American interests. This is an utterly ridiculous question, especially if we look at Locke’s credentials and past actions, but we’re addressing it because the loyalty of people of color in America has come into question time and time again.
Locke is extremely qualified for this post. As a two-term governor of Washington state, he helped our state double exports to China. He did similar work as a lawyer at Davis Wright Tremaine. As commerce secretary, Locke promoted U.S. corporate interests in China on issues such as currency and intellectual property protection.
Because of his background as U.S. Secretary of Commerce, China might become more open and take his appointment as a sign that the United States aims to focus more on trade and business, not geopolitics.
Let’s not forget what this means for Washington state. As Gov. Chris Gregoire said on Twitter, Locke’s appointment is “Good for our country. Great for our state.”
Washington state is the most trade-dependent state in the country. Its most important trading partner is China.
What is most inspirational, though, is the journey that the Locke family has taken to arrive at this moment.
A century ago, his grandparents left China for the United States on a steamship. His grandfather worked as a domestic servant. Locke’s father, Jimmy, grew up in China, but came back to the States as a teenager, enlisting in the U.S. Army, and eventually becoming a business owner.
Locke never had a silver spoon in his mouth, but achieved so much through hard work and ambition. This is something for us to celebrate. ♦