A New (Chinese) American Diplomat

Hat tip to John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review for August 3rd-8th, 2011, for flagging a China Daily report from August 3rd reporting on the appointment of Gary Locke as U.S. ambassador to China ( http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2011-08/03/content_13037261.htm , retrieved 8/17/11, “Locke sworn in as new ambassador to China,” updated: 2011-08-03 07:53, by Tan Yingzi and Qin Jize).

The article features a variety of officially sanctioned Chinese reactions to the appointment. One is a favorable assessment of Locke from a scholar of US-Sino trade relations, who cites the ambassador’s experience as US Department of Commerce Secretary. 

A second assessment, by an analyst at a research institute attached to the Ministry of Commerce, notes that only one of the assignments in Locke’s prior job was trade relations. Overall, the report quoted the analyst, Locke was just trying to “enhance strategic mutual trust” as any other US cabinet member conducting international relations would.  

A third assessment of the new ambassadorial appointment came from a university scholar, who argued that Locke’s Chinese roots will not cause him to behave differently than any other ambassador whose job it is to uphold his country’s national interests, although his experience with Chinese culture might help him: “to understand the mindset of the Chinese…. [A]nd I think his appointment as ambassador reveals the goodwill of the Obama administration.” 

The fourth perspective provided in the article is of an international politics scholar at a university: “Locke's new post shows the inclusiveness of US society, and Washington will take full advantage of Locke's Chinese background to develop its public diplomacy in China.” What I infer from this article is that at least elite Chinese will respond to Ambassador Locke as they would to any other ambassador from the US, with caution, but Locke’s common cultural ground with the Chinese in general may give him an edge, in engaging on both the official level and on the public diplomacy level, with the Chinese public. 

In my dissertation-drafting cave, I look at the appointment of this Chinese American diasporan to the US government’s highest post in Beijing as a wise leveraging of home-grown expertise and cross-cultural sensitivity.  Here’s to stronger Sino-US ties!