Locke's China ties no guarantee of easy ride

Source:Global Times Published: 2011-3-10 8:29:00

By Dinggang

The White House Tuesday confirmed with the Global Times that Gary Faye Locke had been nominated by US President Barack Obama as the US ambassador to China.

From the perspective of the development of Sino-US relations, it is a step forward that a Chinese-American is nominated as the US ambassador to China.

It is still uncertain whether Locke can eventually become the ambassador. Even being nominated, he will still need to go through a strict vetting process by Washington politicians. However, in the past, it was unlikely for Chinese-American to become ambassadors. Even American "China hands" had little chance to be nominated.

I saw something interesting while working in the US a decade ago. At that time, the US media divided experts and officials engaged in the work and research of the Sino-US relations into hawks and doves. However, those described as doves by the media denied being such and some even denied such a division existed, while the hawks didn't mind being described as such and they were happy to express their views directly.

Now, such division had subsided and the hawks don't seem to have as much momentum, although from time to time they surge.

Overall, the atmosphere of Sino-US relations is changing, but the magnitude of the a change is not enough, compared with the importance of the relationship between the two countries.

So we should monitor Locke's nomination and appointment closely.

A Chinese-American ambassador will not necessarily be friendly to China, but with the knowledge of Chinese traditions and methods in dealing with problems, he can recognize subtle cultural cues and have a better understanding of the operation of Chinese policies. It helps mutual communication.

Sino-US relations are the most complex bilateral relationship in the world and the most consequential parts of US foreign relations.

The US needs more "China hands" to deal with the global, multilateral and bilateral affairs. It is the same case in China. Today both the US and China urgently need people who can listen to, read and see through each other to make plans and have communications.


If American "China hands," such as Locke, David Lampton or Kenneth Lieberthal become ambassadors to China, and Wang Jisi, Yuan Ming or other Chinese experts on the US become Chinese ambassadors to the US, can the two sides have fewer misjudgments?

Neither Washington nor Beijing is short of such talent. Currently the key is whether more opportunities, more important positions and an atmosphere that allows them speak their minds can be provided.

From the Washington side, even China hands have to consider the picky politicians in Washington. Therefore, people with more understanding of China can be tougher at critical moments.

In such an atmosphere, the innovative consciousness in Sino-US relations might be aborted and even some more sensible and long-term policies and strategic recommendations could fail to go forward.

If Locke is really nominated, it will undoubtedly be a significant change. But whether he can become the ambassador to China, and how much he can promote Sino-US mutual trust at this position will depend on the change in the atmosphere in Washington.

The author is a senior editor with the People's Daily. dinggang@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: Viewpoint

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