President Obama is expected to announce that current Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke will be his nomination to be Ambassador to China, replacing current Ambassador Jon Huntsman, who earlier this year said he would be resigning in the Spring and is expected to be strongly considering a run for president. I first heard about Locke’s news via a friend on Facebook. With some of the comments, I was thinking – well, it’s about time!
Usually, many non-consequential ambassadorships to American friendly places like Canada or Great Britain are fairly ceremonial in nature and given to big presidential campaign donors. For “frenemies” like China, the ambassadorship is a pretty critical role. Huntsman was probably one of the most qualified ambassadors for the role given his past involvement in trade as well as being fluent in Mandarin Chinese (a fortunate part of going on a Mormon missionary trip to Taiwan.) Locke brings even greater credentials as well as quite a bit of symbolism, even though some might consider the role a “demotion” from being a cabinet member:
But sending Locke to China would greatly enhance his standing within the Obama administration by granting him an important diplomatic and economic role that he’s uniquely qualified to perform. And tapping the son of Chinese immigrants to serve as America’s ambassador to China is perhaps one of the grandest gestures President Obama could make to a country that takes gestures seriously. Locke’s resume makes him an ideal candidate for the job: Beyond his personal ties to the country, he’s the first Chinese-American to serve as a governor and commerce secretary, and is known to receive a “rock star” welcome from his business and government contacts in China whenever he visits, according to his former business associates in Seattle. That Locke, 61, served as governor of perhaps the most Asian-dependent state in the nation doesn’t hurt either. During his two terms in office, the state doubled its exports to China to more than $5 billion annually (thanks primarily to Boeing.)
I personally cannot think of anybody else that would be a better candidate. I wonder what kind of objections – if any – the Republicans in the Senate would have, or even rarer, a Democrat would have? Not to say that we should always send ambassadors of a certain ethnic origin to their ancestral homes, but if they are qualified, I think that is fantastic.