Locke breezes through Senate hearing

Updated: 2011-05-28 11:32

By Tan Yingzi and Cheng Guangjin (China Daily)

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Locke breezes through Senate hearing

US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke (right) testifies during his Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing as his wife Mona Lee (center) and daughter Mona Lee Locke (left) listen on Capitol Hill on Thursday in Washington DC. [Photo/Agencies]

WASHINGTON / BEIJING - US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the nominee for United States ambassador to China, waltzed through his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday as he told the panelists that balancing the trade deficit and reaching out to the Chinese public will be his priorities.

If confirmed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Locke will become the first Chinese-American to serve as ambassador to China, where his parents were born. The committee is expected to confirm Locke soon, but the date for a vote has not been decided.

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The news about Locke's possible confirmation is popular with the general public in China. With his Chinese ancestry, Locke has an advantage in performing his mission as ambassador to China, which, however, should not be overly emphasized, analysts said.

It was expected that Congress might use the opportunity to press the Obama administration on issues such as currency, but the envoy-to-be did not receive tough challenges from the Senators.

With his whole family, wife Mona and three children Emily, Dylan and Madeline, sitting behind him during the hearing, Locke stated his understanding of the new position and the bilateral relationship as well as his goals.

"Should I be confirmed, I will work to build the positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship that President Obama and Chinese President Hu have agreed our two countries should aspire to," he said.

Locke said he will maintain a commitment to promote commercial cooperation with China as he has been doing for more than a decade. Improving the investment environment in China, strengthening intellectual property protection and enforcement and seeking more collaboration in clean energy are on his agenda.

More mutual trust and understanding are vital to move the Sino-US relationship forward in important areas such as trade, said Niu Xinchun, a scholar on US studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

"I hope to be an able messenger of the Obama Administration's policies for the Asian-Pacific region generally and to the Chinese government specifically, if confirmed," he said in his prepared statement.

Noting that an ambassador is a "bridge" informing two sides of each other's situation and not a "decision-maker", Niu said "it is hoped that Locke also lets the US know why its concerns exist in China and take a long time to resolve".

Issues such as trade deficit and intellectual property rights, which are connected with the two countries' different consuming, producing and social systems, which are unlikely to be solved soon, said Niu.

Another priority for Locke is to be more engaged in public diplomacy and to reach out directly to the Chinese people.

He hopes that he can continue the blog set up by the US embassy and make appearances on radio and TV shows in China.

Locke's "Chinese looks" may make him popular among the Chinese people, but "Locke is an American citizen and stands for American interests", Niu said.

Recently, the commerce secretary has publicly expressed his grave concerns on the commercial environment.

Before the third round of the China-US Strategic and Economic Dialogue earlier this month in Washington, he again raised concerns about China's intellectual property protection and a series of discriminative policies against foreign companies. He urged for a more transparent decision-making process.

The panelists gave Locke a list of things he must work on, such as human rights, the Taiwan issue, trade deficit and protection of the environment.

"The relationship between the United States and China is vital to get right," said Senator John Kerry, the committee's chairman. "We must avoid falling into the trap of zero-sum competition. We need to forge a mutually beneficial relationship based on common interests."



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