BLOG: Breaking bread with an ambassador — Part 3 of the Locke blog series

From left: Madeline Locke, Rita Yoshihara, Emily Locke, Gary Locke, and Mona Locke (son Dylan was unable to attend.)


“What is your preference for lunch — Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Italian, or pizza?” asked someone from U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke’s office in Beijing.

I wondered, is pizza not Italian? Is it now considered American?

Anyway, the last thing I wanted to eat was pizza in China. Just so you know, pizza is expensive in China. Pizza Hut’s medium pizza costs about 200 renminbui ($30 USD).

A cosmopolitan city with more high-rise buildings than New York City, Beijing has a range of fancy restaurants and great treats. But I didn’t go to Beijing for an Indian or Japanese lunch, either.

“Whatever is convenient,” I replied in an e-mail, but I did request that if it’s Chinese, let it not be Cantonese style, since I had Cantonese food for nine days straight in Hong Kong earlier in my trip.

So Locke’s wife, Mona, picked the Bellagio, which is close to the embassy.

Wait a minute, Las Vegas’ Bellagio?

For a minute, I was fooled. Bellagio in Beijing is actually a Taiwanese restaurant.

On the table, there was mapo tofu, three-cup chicken, and some other dishes. The food was more Sichuan than Taiwanese.

Dining with us was Locke’s sister Rita Yoshihara and his two daughters, Emily and Madeline. We all ate happily, sharing a jumbo ice cream after the meal.

What Locke thinks of Huntsman

Jon Meade Huntsman Jr.

A Republican, Jon Huntsman left his ambassador post to run for president. Huntsman’s move in China was limited to one bad incident and photo. Chinese officials complained that he and his daughter showed up to see Chinese protesting at the mall. That photo was circulated on the Internet in China.

Now, Locke’s positive publicity for Chinese officials has been raising eyebrows, according to the New York Times. Orders from above have descended on the Chinese media, stating that they should note that Locke’s not Chinese, but American. Big front-page stories for Locke should be avoided.

Locke said he liked working with Huntsman. He said Huntsman had given him advice on management and staffing, and so did a couple of embassy staff, who spoke off the record.
What is Locke’s day like?

Locke said his job is to help American companies succeed and expand in China. He credited American businesses for employing thousands of Chinese.

Encouraging people-to-people exchange through education and cultural programs is also important, he said. When the Seattle Art Museum has exhibited great Chinese artifacts, the embassy has often played a big role in securing them.

There is a need to increase the number of U.S. students who come to China, he said.

Only 13,000 U.S. students study in China, while 130,000 Chinese students go to the United States for education.

Presently, he is proposing that China extend the 1-year visa for U.S. workers to a 5-year visa. The reduction in paperwork and waiting time will benefit both countries. Locke said the United States will do the same if China agrees to do so. (end)

Publisher Ng’s Locke series continues next week, with part four.

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