• Sun
  • Dec 21, 2014
  • Updated: 8:02am

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

In China everything is political..this is not an act of one delusioned man!!
It's practically the same as black people calling Obama an Uncle Tom and no where near where they call each other the N-word.
If some foreign racists call Chinese racist, it must be true.
I call myself a yellow man, a banana, all the time. Am I a self-hate Chinese like some readers who write to this column?
My better half, then received and greeted by my family as the beautiful gweimui bride, never perceived that endearing "pejorative" as racist.
True, the West has come a long way to make such personal insults politically incorrect. But one could easily be mislead by substituted euphemism. Negro was acceptable but n*gger wasn't. Then black became fashionable. Nowadays, no one uses the negro word although confederate flags still fly in the US.
In Greenwich Village circa 1962, I witnessed a white guy being chased because he called a negro black b*stard.
Gary Locke was at my nephew's wedding. He was just another banana guest or relative. So what's the big deal?
The real racists are ones who use gun boats to kill people and steal territories, force opium down their throat and sell/work them as slaves. Media still hail them as champions of democracy, speech freedom, human and property rights.
You have peace as long as you don't challenge their dominance and prescribed world order. Nothing personal, they are just enforcing rules of the animal kingdom.
Now if the West is truly honest, then it should do something about its own institutionalized racism and the power hierarchy it tries to impose on the rest of the world.
It's not about them against us, but fairness for all in the family.
Well, he is a banana.............no doubt about that part...........the "rotten banana" part was a bit extreme though.
With overt racism -- hate Chinese sentiments -- expressed aplenty in this page, let me repeat again:
The real racists are ones who use gun boats to kill people and steal territories, force opium down their throat and sell/work them as slaves. Racist nations initiated just every major war since the second half of 20th Century and killed off millions. Racist media today still hail them as champions of democracy, speech freedom, human and property rights.
Thank heavens now that the yellow horde finally own nuclear weapons in their defensive ****nal.
Emphatically, I disagree strongly with China News Service. Imitating the tone and tenor of white folks' personal racism -- now considered politically correct by some -- and their still widely practiced institutional racism is not just wrong, but despicably stupid.
Since when is calling someone a Chinese "banana" a racial slur? it is a term to describe Chinese that grew up overseas and dont act or know the Chinese culture like their Asian-grown counterparts. The commentary by the Chinese newspaper is very unprofessional but it is not using a racial slur.
I wonder if the author of the uncivilized article, wang ping could have been someone used to work for BXL or ZYK system. He must be still very mad about the way of US consul's handling WLJ such that the central government of China could pick WLJ up from Chengdu without giving chances to B to stop the leak. Now, I think this author wang should worry about his future since he would be followed up by the disciplinary committee. He was missed out perhaps because his position was too trivial but now, since he sticked his head out, he might be expecting a knock on his door by the disciplinary committee office. Good luck, wang.



SCMP.com Account