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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 03/ 8/2011

Why sending Gary Locke to China makes sense

By Ed O'Keefe


Commerce Secretary Gary Locke may soon trade Washington for Beijing. (Getty Images)

Eye Opener

Some might consider Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to China a demotion -- removing someone from the Cabinet and sending them to far-off Beijing doesn't seem like a nice thing to do. It comes with great sacrifice for his young family that only recently moved to Washington.

But sending Locke to China would greatly enhance his standing within the Obama administration by granting him an important diplomatic and economic role that he's uniquely qualified to perform. And tapping the son of Chinese immigrants to serve as America's ambassador to China is perhaps one of the grandest gestures President Obama could make to a country that takes gestures seriously.

Locke's resume makes him an ideal candidate for the job: Beyond his personal ties to the country, he's the first Chinese-American to serve as a governor and commerce secretary, and is known to receive a "rock star" welcome from his business and government contacts in China whenever he visits, according to his former business associates in Seattle.

That Locke, 61, served as governor of perhaps the most Asian-dependent state in the nation doesn't hurt either. During his two terms in office, the state doubled its exports to China to more than $5 billion annually (thanks primarily to Boeing).

Before joining the Obama administration, Locke also served as a partner in the Seattle office of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, focusing primarily on global trade issues with Asia, an area of obvious expertise. The job required several trips to China to meet with business leaders -- another plus.

From his perch as commerce secretary, he's also made several trips to China, India, and other Asian destinations to promote American businesses. Virtually every time a Chinese official visited Washington in the last two years, they met with Locke. In turn, American corporate leaders appreciate his business acumen and focus on creating jobs, and his concern for reforming the patent process.

But as former Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) used to joke, "the secretary of commerce always comes in thinking he will be the head businessman. And then he finds out that he's really the head fisherman."

The Commerce Department is an unwieldy organization responsible for a wide range of issues -- the U.S. Census, weather forecasting, fisheries, and economic development. Locke seemed under-used in the role.

Obama's decision to give the Beijing job first to Jon Huntsman -- himself a well-regarded figure in China -- was a brilliant political move that slowed, if not killed the former Utah governor's chances of scoring the Republican presidential nomination. But giving the job next to Locke makes much more sense from a diplomatic and economic standpoint.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Major transparency win at Supreme Court: The court ruled, 8-1, that the Navy could not use an exemption for records "related solely to the internal personnel rules and practices of an agency" in order to reject a request for data about a weapons and explosives depot in Puget Sound.

DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:
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JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:
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TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT:
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By Ed O'Keefe  | March 8, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Administration, Eye Opener, Revolving Door  
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Next: Security guards caught napping, watching TV on the job

Comments

Wise decision, Pres. Obama - thanks!

Posted by: angie12106 | March 8, 2011 6:33 AM | Report abuse

Commute Pollard?!?

Is Kissinger on the Israeli payroll? Has he been, all along?

Posted by: frodot | March 8, 2011 7:11 AM | Report abuse

Being from Washington State, I think the idea of sending Locke to China is wonderful......as long as he never returns to Washington State.

Posted by: richard36 | March 8, 2011 8:31 AM | Report abuse

It wasn't until the comments that I found he was from Washington State. I figured it was either Oregon or Washington State, but it doesn't say (unless I'm blind).

"That Locke, 61, served as governor of perhaps the most Asian-dependent state in the nation doesn't hurt either. During his two terms in office, the state doubled its exports to China to more than $5 billion annually (thanks primarily to Boeing)."

I guess I should have assumed Washington State when the article said Boeing, but still.

Posted by: bbirdy202 | March 8, 2011 9:51 AM | Report abuse

We have two too many Mormons running for president trying to evangelize the GOP and the nation.

I hope Gary Locke has a lock on the gig in Beijing. It is long overdue to have a Chinese-American in the job as the American ambassador to China.

Posted by: alance | March 8, 2011 9:52 AM | Report abuse

Sending Locke to China because he is the best man for the job is fine, but sending him because he is a son of Chinese immigrants is insulting.

Posted by: hock1 | March 8, 2011 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Don't you see the Mandarins in China see the game President Obama is playing? Shold President Obama play them as fools?

President Obama is too smart for his own good if he thinks it's a good move on the chess board to send a Chinese-American to fight the Mandarins in China.

The Chinese Mandarins probably sneer at President Obama's self perceived "masterstroke" of diplomacy and ethnic politics.

Does President Obama really believe a Chinese-American enjoys any advantages against the Mandarins in China?

Posted by: twimo2003 | March 8, 2011 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I think it's a grand idea.

Posted by: jws2346 | March 8, 2011 12:38 PM | Report abuse

"Some might consider Commerce Secretary Gary Locke's nomination to serve as U.S. ambassador to China a demotion -- removing someone from the Cabinet and sending them to far-off Beijing doesn't seem like a nice thing to do. It comes with great sacrifice for his young family that only recently moved to Washington."

Ed are you for real? Who would think that except maybe your Republican xenophobic friends.

Becoming an Ambassador to China at this critical time is both an honor and a great career opportunity.

Posted by: FoundingMother | March 8, 2011 3:59 PM | Report abuse

On the positive side: Being born in Seattle in a Chinese immigrant family and served two terms as governor of Washington and Secretary of Commerce, Gary Locke is uniquely qualified to serve as the Ambassador to China. He has a deeper insight and higher capability to manage the Sino-American relationship… cooperation and competition.
On the negative side: By the same token, because of that ethnic background I am afraid he will be handicapped… for the same reason that we do not send Japanese American to fight the Japanese in the Pacific during WW2. In other words, he will have less tools in his diplomatic tool-box. He might need to be tougher than normal and cannot use the “soft power”, coined by Hilary Clinton, as often as he should… with the heavy dependence on the domestic politics of the moment.
I hope the net summation is a gain for US.

Posted by: fw360 | March 9, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

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