Beijing Welcomes Obama Nominee for US Ambassador to China

U.S. President Obama listens to Commerce Secretary Locke after he was announced as the new U.S. Ambassador to China, at the White House in Washington, March 9, 2011

In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters Thursday the Chinese government welcomes the nomination of Gary Locke to be the next U.S. ambassador to China.

Jiang says Sino-American relations are highly important and that Beijing hopes the new American envoy will play a positive role in developing closer bilateral relations.

Locke is a former two-term governor of the state of Washington, home to companies like Microsoft and Boeing. During his time in office, he expanded the state’s exports to China. Since 2009, he has continued to deal with China trade issues as the federal secretary of commerce.

Sun Zhe, international studies professor at Tsinghua University, applauds Locke’s trade and economics knowledge, but says there are other issues he also will face.

Sun thinks Locke is not familiar enough with military issues or people-to-people exchanges.

If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Locke will be the first Chinese-American to hold the post.

Although he does not speak Chinese, Sun says Locke's ethnicity will help him make a connection with Chinese people.

Sun says Chinese people may feel that Locke is a good representative of U.S. friendship to China because of his ethnicity, so this could be helpful to Washington. But he says Chinese intellectuals and political analysts will always keep in mind that the U.S. ambassador - regardless of whether he is ethnic Chinese or speaks Chinese - represents the interests of the American government.

The current U.S. ambassador in China, Jon Huntsman, has been well received in Beijing because he speaks fluent Chinese. He has said he will step down as ambassador on April 30.

Huntsman, a Republican, has also indicated he may run for president in 2012 against his former boss, President Obama, a Democrat.

Meanwhile, the White House has given no indication as to when President Obama will name a new commerce secretary to replace Locke.