New US envoy Locke aims to cement ties
America's new ambassador to China, the first Chinese-American to hold the critical post, has arrived in Beijing amid speculation on how the new envoy will promote mutual trust while handling the many differences between the two countries.
Speaking at Beijing airport late on Friday night, Gary Locke expressed his excitement at taking up his new assignment and was confident he would be good bridge between the two nations.
'I am very excited to be here as US ambassador to the great country of China. The whole family is excited,' said Locke during an interview with China Central Television. 'The US and China have many areas of co-operation and great opportunities to improve our relations.'
He said he would present his credentials and visit schools yesterday.
Locke's flight to Beijing itself has become an online sensation, with many internet users amazed that one of America's most important diplomats was seen flying in economy class, with no bodyguard or entourage and carrying his own luggage.
An internet user at weibo.com, Tang Zhaohui, a technology businessman, said he was standing in queue for coffee behind Locke at Seattle airport when the ambassador, who was carrying a backpack, handed what appeared to be a voucher to the cashier who later told Locke it could not be used.
'He didn't give the ambassador any face at all,' Tang said. 'But the ambassador wasn't angry and paid with his credit card instead.' Tang posted a photo Locke at the coffee lounge online.
Locke's family were also seen on television carrying their own luggage.
Almost 7,000 internet users left comments at Tang's photo, with most praising the Locke's down-to-earth style.
Some joked that the ambassador, previously the US secretary for commerce and a former governor of Washington state, looked more like a petitioner in Beijing than 'a typical township official from China who would be taking a far more extravagant trip than this'.
Some also warned about holding too high expectations of Locke that, despite his Chinese roots and appearance, was an American who would stand up for the interests of his country.
The state-owned media welcomed Locke with reports urging him to help 'rebuild' America's financial reputation.
'Amid the concerns over the gloomy economic future of the US, it is Locke's responsibility to relieve anxiety in China towards US debt after the downgrade of US government's credit rating,' reported China Daily, citing Zhou Qi, a top researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
By far America's largest foreign creditor, China held US$1.16 trillion in US debt in May.
Locke has his work cut out for him, but boosting the credibility and stability of US debt and minimising the side effects brought by the US' recent credit rating downgrade were certainly important.