Wednesday, November 20, 2013

U.S. ambassador to China leaving

Bad hair day at the Forbidden City
In what is sure to be a loss for both the U.S. and Chinese governments, the word is out that Gary Locke is stepping down as U.S. ambassador to the Middle Kingdom.

Locke, who has been ambassador since 2011, reportedly plans to rejoin his family in Washington State where he served two terms as governor. He also put in a stint as secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Locke is a first-generation American who has close family ties to South China where his father and grandfather were born. His Chinese name is Luo Jia Wei. Because of this heritage he has been immensely popular with the Chinese.

His popularity with the Chinese goes back at least a couple of decades. I remember in 1997, when I was living and working in Beijing, I traveled to South China.

One of my stops was Chengdu in Sichuan Province. When I went to tour the provincial museum, a banner hung across the entrance welcoming then-Gov. Locke to the museum. (He'd come and gone by the time I got there.) The museum was closed because of electrical problems, but when staff found out I also was from Washington State, they immediately allowed me to enter and look over the first floor, which was an exhibit of centuries-old Han sculptures. Unfortunately, there was insufficient light to see the exhibit very well.

From Chengdu, I eventually made my way to Guiyang in Guizhou Province. One morning I decided to visit the zoo to see the pandas. I met a retired man who was on his way to play badminton with his buddies, but opted to show me around the zoo when he found out I worked for China Daily. He grew even more excited when he learned I was from Washington and wanted to know if I knew Gov. Locke. Only by name, I told him.

Are you going to China?

If you're planning a trip to China, please check out Cheryl's China, which has tips and recommendations to help plan a  better trip. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about travel in China.

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