Gary Locke

See China's countryside, outgoing US envoy Gary Locke tells Max Baucus

Outgoing US ambassador shares fitness tips and urges successor to visit China's rural areas in what may be his last interview as envoy to Beijing

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 3:45am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 3:45am

Outgoing US ambassador Gary Locke urged his successor, Max Baucus, to visit every corner of China, especially small villages in remote areas, to really understand what is happening in the country.

"My sincere advice to him is to visit various places in China - as many as he can - and understand local customs and practices," Locke told Olympic badminton champion Lin Dan in what could be his last interview as envoy. "Beijing is not China and big cities can't be representative of China."

Locke has travelled extensively on the mainland during his tenure, including trips to Chongqing, Guangdong, Sichuan, Tibet and Xinjiang, where he talked with local officials and residents.

The interview was published in the Chinese edition of Men's Health, which featured Locke on the cover, smiling and looking trim in a tight, black T-shirt and dark jeans.

The ambassador shared some health tips, saying he drank tea, ate a healthy diet and got regular exercise outdoors. However, he said he was not much of a jogger and had only gone running a few times while in Beijing.

Lin marvelled at Locke's ability to maintain an abdominal plank position for 51 minutes, which was nevertheless far short of the world record of three hours and seven minutes. "I also did the same test but could only last about three minutes," Lin said.

Locke reiterated that his decision to leave his post in Beijing after little more than two years was motivated by a desire to be with his children as they attend high school and college in the United States.

"This decision was made in early 2013," he said. "The decision is mainly for our eldest daughter. We believe it's very important for her to return to the US to finish her high school and then go to college in the States."

Reports in the Chinese media have speculated that Locke was leaving due to everything from an ambition to run for the US presidency to Beijing's air pollution.

Locke made only a passing reference to pollution in the interview, saying: "I won't talk with the next ambassador about PM 2.5 [tiny airborne particulate matter] because everyone knows about this issue."

Baucus has indicated that Locke - the first Chinese-American to hold the post - would stay on until at least the end of the month.

The 72-year-old incoming ambassador is a running enthusiast and said after his confirmation by the US Senate last week that he wanted to run the Beijing Marathon. But he admitted - without mentioning the pollution - that he might take a pass.

"I've actually got my eye on the Beijing Marathon, but to be more honest, I will maybe scale down to a half-marathon - something a little shorter," he said.