• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 12:10am

Gary Locke

Former US ambassador to China, Gary Locke is a Chinese-American who was born in Seattle. He graduated from Yale and holds a law degree from Boston University. Locke was elected as the Governor of Washington twice, the nation’s first Chinese-American governor in history. Locke then served as Secretary of Commerce under the Obama administration in 2009 before assuming his role as ambassador to China on August 1, 2011.    


Official Chinese media outlet uses racial slur 'banana' to insult departing US envoy

China News Service brands Gary Locke a 'rotten banana', a 'guide dog for the blind' and a 'plague'

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 March, 2014, 9:35am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 March, 2014, 3:43pm

A major Chinese government news service used a racist slur to describe the departing American ambassador in a mean-spirited editorial on Friday that drew widespread public condemnation in China.

The article — which called Gary Locke a “rotten banana,” a guide dog for the blind, and a plague — reflected Chinese nationalists’ acute loathing toward the first Chinese-American to have been Washington’s top envoy to Beijing.

Locke’s ethnic background particularly interested the Chinese government and people. Locke won public applause when he was seen carrying his own bag and flying economy class but he drew criticism from Beijing as his demeanour was an unwelcome contrast to Chinese officials’ privileges and entitlements.

“It is unfitting of China’s status as a diplomatic power. As a Chinese, I am very angry and feel ashamed of it.”
Hao Jinsong

In Washington, top diplomat John Kerry paid tribute to Locke as “a champion of human dignity and a relentless advocate for America’s values.” Asked about the China News Service commentary, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Friday: “We are not going to dignify the name-calling in that editorial with a response.”

In his two and a half years in Beijing, Locke oversaw the defusing of two delicate diplomatic episodes when a powerful police chief fled to a US consulate and later when a persecuted blind activist sought shelter in the embassy. The Chinese public also credit him with making them realise the harm of the tiny pollutant PM2.5 and severity of China’s foul air by posting the embassy’s hourly readings of air quality.

Meanwhile, the editorials in Chinese state media turned from initial reservation to unfriendliness to the insolence of the final piece.

“I think it shows the unfriendliness and impoliteness by the Chinese government toward Gary Locke, and it is without the manners and dignity of a major power,” legal scholar Hao Jinsong said. “It is unfitting of China’s status as a diplomatic power. As a Chinese, I am very angry and feel ashamed of it.”


The editorial “Farewell, Gary Locke” took direct aim at Locke’s identity as a third-generation Chinese-American, calling him a “banana” — a racial term for Asians identifying with Western values despite their skin colour.

“But when a banana sits out for long, its yellow peels will always rot, not only revealing its white core but also turning into the stomach-churning colour of black,” read the editorial.

The author Wang Ping — likely a pseudonym — slammed Locke’s portrayal as an official judicious with public funds but criticized him for being hypocritical as he retreated into his multimillion-dollar official residence and special-made, bullet-proof luxury vehicle.

Wang belittled Locke’s inability to speak his ancestral language and accused him of failing to understand China’s law but fanning “evil winds” in the ethnically sensitive regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

“Not only did he run around by himself, he even served as a guide dog for the blind when he took in the so-called blind rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng and led him running,” the editorial said. Chen later was allowed to leave China and now lives in the United States.

The editorial made a malicious Chinese curse at Locke, suggesting Locke’s Chinese ancestors would expel him from the family clan should they know his behaviours.

Wang also made the innuendo that Locke should be blamed for the smog. “When he arrived, so did Beijing’s smog,” Wang wrote. “With his departure, Beijing’s sky suddenly turned blue.”

“Let’s bid goodbye to the smog, and let’s bid goodbye to the plague. Farewell, Gary Locke.”
China News Service

“Let’s bid goodbye to the smog, and let’s bid goodbye to the plague. Farewell, Gary Locke,” ended the article, which was clearly inspired by Mao Zedong’s 1949 piece, “Farewell, Leighton Stuart,” that scoffed at the last American ambassador under the collapsing Nationalist government in Nanjing.

The piece shocked members of the Chinese public, who denounced the editorial as distasteful and offensive.

“This article by China News Service is the most shameless I have ever seen — not one of them but the most shameless,” the popular online commentator Yao Bo said. “Without him, we probably still would not have known what PM2.5 is, and how did he bring the smog? You have played the snake in the Farmer and the Viper.”

Another commentator Fastop Liu, known for his sharp tongue, said the piece is ungraceful. “When you call him a plague, you become a national shame as you lack diplomatic etiquette, damage the manner of a great power, and lose the face of all Chinese,” Liu wrote.

Locke gave his final news conference as ambassador on Thursday. His replacement, former Montana Sen. Max Baucus, was sworn in last week and is expected to arrive within weeks.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

There was a time when China was economically poor, but its style of foreign policy was grand, exemplary and through that incredibly powerful.
Nowadays China bathes in grandness economically, but its foreign policy style is low and poor, and is only powerful through military threats.
Where have the grand, old gentlemen gone to?
I agree to banning hate speech any place anywhere. Here in HK, we have different ideas.
If you read SCMP and other newspapers, free speech often means the license to libel and to fabricate news stories, especially about China. If you criticize hate politics and lies, you are liable to be accused of colluding with Beijing and SAR governments.
My statement above is a fair critique of Western media propaganda. To some, fair and balanced reporting of China means nonstop sermons about Western universal values system and intolerance of other systems of government.
I empathize with Mr. Locke and I am re-attaching above my comments about him from another column. I don't know him personally. He appears very honest to me and not just because of his public persona. He is a Chinese American here in China to serve his nation's interest, not China's. Unlike other past ambassadors leaving their jobs getting 6-figure honorarium for a vacuous speech and followed on lucrative business deals, Mr. Locke will walk away from this job empty handed.
Unfortunately, 兩袖清風 after government service is no longer a successful role model in most quarters.
I disapprove the shrill tones of China's news organ, although its complaints of Ambassador Locke as China's adversary are not without substance from an opposite perspective.
I am not sure who this was intended for. The online reaction in China has unambiguously condemned this.
Blatant racism, equating Chinese to a race. Even in China they claim that there are 56 racial ethnicities but if you aren't Han you will always be looked down upon.
I don't hold the Americans very high but at least they have achieved an integrated multiracial society, an American is an America, is an American regardless of the color of his/her skin or hair. Go to the U.S. and try calling someone a banana, egg or even use an adjective such as "Chinese" to refer to an AMERICAN of Chinese descent, such as Chinese-American. You'd certainly have a difficult time making friends and may event find yourself in front of a judge. I guess some hate filled individuals belong to the KKK or Aryan Nations.
we will miss him, and we cherish what he has done to Chinese people!
To be fair, all news agencies in China are government-run but not everything appears on their websites speaks on behalf of the government.
@anthonygmail: I do think China still has a long way to go before she re-emerges as a truly great nation as she used to be.
As to Gary Locke, he is American regardless where he traces his ancestry and he did what he's supposed (or told) to do as a US ambassador to China. It is really pointless and tasteless to call him a banana, full stop.
I think that Americans who are aware of these comments feel very insulted. Frankly I am a bit puzzled as to why such blunt and offensive comments appeared in the official media. No, the government can't explain it away as not representing the official position of China. If it hadn't have happened in the middle of a crisis in the Ukraine, it would have made headlines in the U.S. media. I felt that sec. of state Kerry's remarks weren't strong enough. As such, I've sent letters of concern to my congressmen. I would have preferred that the Chinese ambassador had been summoned to the White House to express the dismay that many of us Americans feel about those remarks. But, as I mentioned there are other avenues for showing our displeasure through our congressmen. The Asian American community and its friends are increasingly influential. No politician here wants to lose the Asian American vote. I suspect that is why Gary Locke rose to prominence. Well, that and because he is extremely competent and respected in the community at large. Sigh, Sino American relations seem to be taking another turn for the worse to my dismay.
Both raves and pans of Gary Locke are justified.
His Truman like thrift stands in stark contrast to China's widespread corruption, as well as to rapacious US politicians in this new age of ideological hate. His constant reminder of China's damage to environment from fast paced and unbalanced development serves notice that there are two sides to every coin – benefits come with costs (shadow price).
One-sided criticism is easy; but it’s another matter to define the unique object function for a nation still chained to real world poverty trap set by competitive forces and military threats, in which all rules of the game are controlled by its former tormentors.
China’s official mouthpiece may be shrill, but its underlying tone speaks the truth about foreign and domestic bananas' profound ignorance of a new Weltanschauung due to an emergent ancient civilization state rising from its ashes.
Gary is just another US politician whose shallow, superficial view of value systems bears none of the objective search for truth by John the famous philosopher. All political ideology aside, the only point of contention is whether he will earn a footnote in our history. I speak with sincere good will toward someone who was once the honored guest at my nephew’s wedding.
While setting the record straight in condemning voices of hate and calumny, China needs the Confucian 吾日三省吾身humility in accepting foreign criticism for failures in her national construction.
The Americans have done it right not to comment on such vulgarity. It reflects on the author's calibre and degree of civilization. Read the Da Gong Bao and Wen **** Bao, you will find masterpieces of this kind everyday.



SCMP.com Account