Gary Locke as the U.S. Ambassador to China? Why yes!
“What qualifies U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the U.S. Ambassador to China?”
KOMO Radio asked me in an interview.
You know what my immediate (silent) reaction was?
He doesn’t speak Chinese!
Many past ambassadors to China spoke fluent Chinese.
But they didn’t have what Locke has.
Locke will make a great ambassador. The language issue is not the only thing that makes a good ambassador. An understanding of and a connection to the Chinese government is. Locke is the son of Chinese immigrants. He grew up within the culture. His years of working with China in trade during his two-term governorship is a plus. His law practice as a trade attorney for David Wright Tremaine brought him to China numerous times. His two-year stint as U.S. Commerce Secretary also gives him an advantage on trade issues having to do with China.
When the Chinese President Hu Jintao visited Washington state in 2006, Locke was able to guide the visit so that everything Hu experienced in our state was stellar. In contrast, Hu’s trip to the other Washington turned out to be a flop.
Actually, not speaking Chinese is a positive for Locke. If he could speak the language, many Chinese would swarm around him with unnecessary distractions, irrelevant gossip, and various proposals. The language difference will protect Locke from meaningless socializing and will help him focus on the most important aspects of his job. ♦