Envoy’s personal views unlikely to change Sino-US ties
Global Times | 2013-12-20 0:13:02
By Liu Zhun
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When Gary Locke, the first US ambassador to China of Chinese descent, announced in November that he decided to resign early next year, it became a pending issue who will take over his job. The Washington Post revealed yesterday that President Barack Obama has decided to nominate Max Baucus, a democratic senator from Montana, as the next China envoy.

Though a veteran senator and serving as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus does not have a widely-known name across the Pacific Ocean. Few Chinese had heard of him until his name hit the headlines yesterday. But Baucus has rich experience with China, having visited China eight times and hosted Chinese trade delegations in Washington and Montana. He played an important role in building the trade relationship between the US and China, but also expressed tough attitude on issues including China's human rights and the yuan.

Chinese people may soon start to familiarize themselves with the new ambassador after Obama's nomination is officially confirmed. Baucus will be sent into the spotlight of public opinion and media coverage from both nations. Every move he makes from now on might render him an attention grabber.

The accession of the new US ambassador might cause some waves in China as Gary Locke did when he flew to China to take the office by taking economy class and carrying his own luggage. During his office, he was at the center of Chinese public opinion several times, such as releasing the air quality data monitored from inside the US Embassy. Jon Huntsman, his predecessor who has a Chinese stepdaughter, also caused a stir when he appeared in a small-scale political event in downtown Beijing to show his support.

The Chinese public has acknowledged that a yellow face on the ambassador would not necessarily guarantee a positive Sino-US relationship. Wherever their origins lie and whether they speak Chinese, they are representatives of Washington. Their first ID is politician, and the one and only mission they have is to maximize their country's interests in China.

In other words, it doesn't matter who will take office, because these politicians Washington sends to China will not alter the foundation of Sino-US relations, which are shaped by the extensive economic interdependence and geopolitical competition together. Their individual influence on this bilateral tie is limited.

It is too early to make comments on the new ambassador, no matter, if it be Baucus or not. But a breakthrough on mutual trust is what is absent from Sino-US relations. It needs to be included within the next ambassador's agenda.

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