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Thursday August 11, 2011

Locke Sworn in as Ambassador

By Tan Yingzi and Meng Jing, China Daily

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officiated at Locke's swearing-in at the State Department. She said the former secretary of commerce was the right person to manage the "extraordinarily important" relationship between the United States and China.

"Gary is going to Beijing at a time when there will be a lot of work for us to do to follow up on with the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, that there will be many difficult issues and challenges to face. But I know that Gary is more than ready to tackle that," she said.

Locke said despite the differences between the two countries, the bilateral relationship also holds great promise for extended cooperation and collaboration.

"In those sensitive areas where America and China have differences or serious disagreement, I will work to keep the lines of communication open, to convey the administration's positions clearly, and to engage with Chinese government officials at the highest levels," Locke said at the ceremony.

He is expected to take the post in Beijing in two weeks. Coming with him are his wife Mona and their children Emily, Dylan, and Madeline.

With his Chinese ancestry and efforts as a legislator to promote China-US trade, the 61-year-old Locke was nominated by US President Barack Obama in March after ambassador Jon Huntsman stepped down to prepare for a run for the 2012 presidential election as a Republican candidate.

Obama praised Locke as "one of our nation's most respected and admired public servants" and said no one is more qualified than him to replace Huntsman.

Before Obama appointed him as commerce secretary in 2009, Locke also served as governor of Washington from 1997 to 2005. As governor, he doubled the state's exports to China.

Locke waltzed through his confirmation hearing in June, where he vowed to promote commercial ties with China and get more engaged with Chinese people. Last week he was easily confirmed by the Senate in a voice vote.

Locke's grandfather came to the US over a century ago to work as a lackey for a family in the state of Washington in exchange for English lessons. His father was also born in China who moved to the country as a teenager.

"As the child of Chinese immigrants growing up in the state of Washington, having the opportunity to represent America, the land of my birth, and to represent American values are surely beyond any dream that I could possibly could have," he said at the ceremony.

"I can only imagine just how proud my dad Jimmy, who passed away in January, would be for his son to be the first Chinese-American to represent the United States in the land of his and my mother's birth."

Locke's nomination to the post was received warmly by China. The central government believes his Chinese roots and close ties with the White House can help him bring Beijing and Washington closer, but tough challenges remain, including issues over trade, security issues and human rights.

"President Obama clearly regards Sino-US relationship as one of the most critical relationship for the US by nominating Gary Locke as the US ambassador to China," Jin Canrong, at Renmin University of China, told China Daily.

He said Locke will be easily accepted by China because of his Chinese American heritage.

"Locke's Chinese background will help him get closer with Chinese officials and Chinese people. To some extent, he understands China better compared with those who don't have such a background," said Zhou Qi at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Yuan Pengat the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Locke has a better resume than Huntsman. But Yuan said Locke will face a challenging situation in China, with the disputed issues in the South China Sea and a potential US arms sale to Taiwan looming.

"Strengthening a stable Sino-US relationship is on top of his agenda after he takes the job," Yuan said.

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