Gary Locke

Gary Locke receives kind parting words from old foe Global Times

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 10:43am
UPDATED : Thursday, 21 November, 2013, 1:17pm

The Global Times, China’s leading nationalist newspaper, has decided to part with US Ambassador Gary Locke on good terms after he announced his resignation from the job he held over two tumultuous years.

“From the perspective of both the US and China, Locke’s performance shouldn’t be given a low mark,” a commentary in the daily read on Thursday. The commentary, which appeared in both the English and Chinese language versions of the paper, was penned by Shan Renping, a pseudonym generally thought to be used by the paper’s editor-in-chief Hu Xijin.

Hu’s paper has previously lashed out against the first Chinese-American US ambassador in Beijing after his relatively frugal lifestyle – he has been spotted flying economy class and using coupons to buy coffee – brought him widespread popularity among Chinese internet users, who compared his thriftiness with the privileges enjoyed by reclusive Chinese cadres.

In September 2011, as Locke, a former governor of the state of Washington and secretary of commerce, was beginning his term in Beijing, Hu wrote in a weibo post that the ambassador’s popularity was an “unhealthy phenomenon”. “Why use imported materials to criticise bureaucratism [in China]?” he asked.

The paper repeatedly criticised Locke for allegedly using “publicity stunts” of his frugality to gain influence with the Chinese public. “Some journalists like to romanticise what they see out of a lack of knowledge and may hold Locke up as a mirror for Chinese officials,” an editorial on Locke read in 2011. “It is not suitable to overly praise a foreign ambassador.”

As Locke prepares to leave China, the outspoken editor argues that Locke was an ambassador whose legacy should lead to reflection in China. “Much of his unusual gestures and controversial image may have arisen from our own sensitivity and expectations,” the Chinese-language version read. “We may have no reason to blame Locke.”

Meanwhile on weibo, the popular ambassador's departure is dominated by speculation over whether his decision to leave was linked to Beijing's hazardous levels of air pollution.

During his term, the city's authorities caved in to public pressure and started releasing PM2.5-level air pollution figures. The American Embassy began releasing air-quality data in the capital in 2008.

"During his time in Comrade Gary Locke overcame all kinds of difficulties and set backs, [...], and attracted the attention of relevant organs," real estate tycoon Pan Shiyi wrote in a microblog post, mocking party jargon for a job well done.