By Tessa Sari
Northwest Asian Weekly
Robert S. Wang is a career Foreign Service officer with more than two decades of experience in the U.S. Department of State. He is the deputy chief of mission at the Embassy of the United States in Beijing. He is currently serving as charge d’affaires, essentially acting as the U.S. Ambassador to China since Jon Huntsman, the former ambassador, left his post at the end of April for a presidential run.
Speculation was circling as to whether Wang would be the first Chinese American to become the U.S. Ambassador to China.
But the rumors were put to rest after President Barack Obama announced the nomination of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to the post.
Wang joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1984 and served abroad in big cities in Asia such as Tokyo, Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Singapore.
Before serving as deputy, he was assigned to serve as economic minister counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, where he and his staff monitored implementation of China’s World Trade Organization (WTO) commitments and assisted China in its economic reform efforts.
Wang also served as Cambodia desk officer in the Department of State during the early 1990s. He participated in U.S. government efforts that led to the introduction of UN peacekeeping forces and a historic democratic election in Cambodia.
He was the U.S. State Department’s diplomat-in-residence at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Public Affairs in 2005. Wang was the second diplomat-in-residence, following Don Terpstra. While at UCLA, the Department of Policy Studies served as his home department.
Wang immigrated to the United States from the Philippines at age 12 with his family. His father is from Guangzhou, China, and his mother is from Beijing. Wang’s native village is in the Fujian province.
Wang earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 1972 from the University of Washington (UW), graduating Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science at the University of Iowa.
David Chow, who went to UW at the same time as Wang, said, “Robert is very smart, considerate and organized. He is a great friend and always remember his friends. Even though he came from the Philippines, he studied Chinese on his own so he can be fluent in speaking and writing.”
Ke C. Chen, Wang’s roommate from 1971 to 1972 and an engineer for the UW, said “All of my five roommates are very smart and have made great achievements. Robert was one of the youngest and was the only nonscientist and nonengineer among the group. We have reunions in Seattle and Taiwan, and he came to a few of those.”
Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Wang was an assistant professor of International Relations at Whittier College in California for seven years. He has published articles on China’s military strategy and educational policy reforms, as well as on recent U.S.-China trade relations.
Wang is also actively involved in some institutions and organizations. He was a deputy director of the American Institute in Taiwan and was a visiting fellow with the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Wang is married to Katherine Xiao. ♦
Tessa Sari can be reached at email@example.com.