Gary Locke confirmed as envoy to China

UPDATE: Locke will be sworn in on Monday, Aug. 1.

By Stacy Nguyen
Northwest Asian Weekly

Gary Locke

On Wednesday, July 27, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, 61, was confirmed as ambassador to China. Locke was nominated by President Barack Obama on March 9.

“I can think of nobody who is more qualified than Gary Locke,” said Obama on March 9. “More than 100 years ago, Gary’s grandfather left China on a steamship bound for America, where he worked as a domestic servant in Washington state. A century later, his grandson will return to China as America’s top diplomat.”

Locke is the first Chinese American to serve the post. He replaces Republican Jon Huntsman, who resigned three months ago in order to run for the U.S. presidency in 2012.

Locke won unanimous confirmation from the Senate in a voice vote. This came after a recent July 11 reception where 550 people celebrated his appointment.

“Gary embodies everything that is good about public service, and has affirmed for me that even in the rough and tumble business of politics, it’s possible to succeed and still be a nice person,” said Chris Lu, White House Cabinet Secretary, at the dinner.

“The President thanks the Senate for confirming Secretary Locke by an overwhelming vote to be the next Ambassador to China,” stated Shin Inouye, director of speciality media in the White House Office of Communications. “He is confident that Ambassador Locke will represent the people and interests of the United States well and help strengthen our relationship with the Chinese.”

Guests at Locke’s July 11 reception (Photo provided by Christine Chen)

One of the next steps for Locke is resigning as Secretary of Commerce, as well as wrapping up some unfinished business in the U.S. Department of Commerce, said Locke’s aide Dennis Clark, who also worked for Locke when he was the governor of Washington state. Clark said he doesn’t know when Locke will be sworn in, but Clark predicts it will occur in the next 24 to 48 hours, Locke will announce who will go with him to China, as well when he will be going there.

Vice President Joe Biden will be in China from Aug. 17 to Aug. 22. However, Locke’s office does not think Locke will be there by that date.

Prior to his current position as U.S. Commerce Secretary, Locke was a partner in the Seattle office of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, a national business and litigation law firm with clients in the United States and China. Locke was a foreign direct investment lawyer. He was co-chair of the firm’s China practice and was an active member of its governmental relations practice.

Locke served two terms as governor of Washington state, the first starting in 1996 and the second starting in 2000. As governor, he broke down trade barriers and led 10 trade missions to Asia, Mexico, and Europe. ♦

Stacy Nguyen can be reached at

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