United States Ambassador to China Gary Locke yesterday attributed his success to the hard work and sacrifices made by his Chinese forefathers in an emotion-filled visit to his ancestral village.
'I was born in Seattle ... but my roots are here in China, Guangdong province,' he said on a visit to his father's birth place at Jilong village, Taishan, during a three-day tour of Guangdong.
'I so much believe that my success in the United States was made possible because of the contributions and sacrifices, not just by my father but all the members of the family village,' said Locke, whose Chinese name is Luo Jia-hui.
Accompanied by his uncle, Locke placed a portrait of his father, who died in January, alongside commemorative plaques of other ancestors in the Luo family's home village.
Locke and his sister were also taken to see the house where his parents lived when they got married, and later paid their respects to their ancestors at a family graveyard.
He told reporters that taking his father's portrait back to his home was a key purpose of his trip.
Paying tribute to Chinese culture, he said his father had instilled a sense of diligence and family values in him.
'The notion of family is one thing I benefited from, from the Chinese culture,' Locke said. 'And also hard work - my dad constantly worked for seven days a week, 365 days a year.'
He said that for many decades, the entire village would chip in to pay for a few villagers to go to the United States where they could earn more money, and in return, Locke's family would send money back home to support their relatives.
Early Chinese immigrants in the United States, mostly from Guangdong, worked as labourers in goldmines, lumber camps, coal mines and helped build transcontinental railroads in the 19th century.
Villagers and residents of nearby villages, visibly excited, turned out in their hundreds to greet the ambassador upon his arrival.
Many remarked on his down-to-earth manner, saying they were proud of him.
'He was very approachable and friendly, and wasn't at all arrogant,' said villager Liu Peiqiu, 48, who shook hands with Locke when he greeted a waiting crowd upon his arrival.
'Our officials put on so many airs and graces, with police motorcades and all that, so ostentatious,' said another villager. 'When he [Locke] was here in 1997 he was shocked by all the pageantry.'
Locke's easy-going manner has made him a subject of both praise and vilification on the mainland.
The former US commerce secretary and governor of Washington state made an instant impression when photographs of him pushing his own luggage trolley on arrival at Beijing airport and riding in an ordinary van with his family were posted on the internet in August.
Internet commentators compared his behaviour favourably to that of spendthrift mainland officials who enjoy ostentatious welcoming ceremonies, lavish banquets and the use of official limousines.
But his man-next-door image has ruffled a few feathers. The Guangming Daily, a Communist party newspaper, said that his modest style was part of a politically motivated ploy to impose American neo-imperialism in China.
Locke rejected such claims yesterday. 'There's no way that this was a US government neo-colonialist plot,' he said. 'I'm a very low-key person myself, I like privacy ... I am who I am.'
The estimated number of ethnic Chinese people in the United States, according to research by the US census department in 2007