Thursday, March 10, 2011

U.S. appoints new ambassador to China

President Obama has named Gary Locke as this country's new ambassador to the People's Republic of China. How cool can you get!

Locke, who is currently Obama's Secretary of Commerce, is a former governor of Washington State, the state where I've pretty much lived since 1978.. The appointment continues a line of firsts for this second generation Chinese-American. He was the  first Chinese-American to be elected governor in Washington. He was the first Chinese-American to be appointed Commerce Secretary. Now he becomes the first Chinese-American to serve as ambassador to his grandfather's homeland. You can't get much cooler than that!

It will be a good match. The Chinese people really love Gary Locke, or at least they did in 1997 when he was governor of Washington. I have first-hand experience with this. I was living in Beijing in 1997 when then-Gov. Locke traveled to China to promote trade between Washington and China.

At the time of this visit, I was traveling in southwest China. In Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, I wanted to tour the provincial museum. When I arrived at the museum, there was a big banner welcoming Luo Jia Hui (Locke's Chinese name) as he'd visited the museum recently. The museum was closed due to a power outage, but when I indicated I was from Washington State, they let me in for free. The inside of the museum was dark, so unfortunately I couldn't see very much. Plus, the museum staff was very embarrassed that I was seeing the museum under those conditions. so I ended up leaving after about 15 minutes. If I ever get back to Chengdu, this museum is on my must-see list.

I was visiting the zoo in Guiyang in Guizhou Province when an elderly man carrying a badminton racket stopped to talk to me so he could practice his English. He was delighted to learn I worked for China Daily because he has a friend who worked there but I thought he would have a heart attack when he found out I was from Washington. He immediately started talking about Gary Locke. He decided to skip badminton with his buddies and insisted on showing me around the zoo. When our tour was finished, he invited me to his home for lunch with his wife. I was coming down with a cold, so I declined. He then wanted to pay my taxi fare to the hotel; we compromised and he did pay my bus fare back.

The picture here is one I took at a Chengdu temple. While temples in the north burn incense sticks, in Chengdu red candles were burned at the temples I visited. An interesting cultural difference.

Are you going to China?

If you plan to travel to China, please see my website, Cheryl's China. I've also written several guides to travel in China so take a look at Cheryl's Guides. If you have questions about travel in China, please feel free to email me.

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