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It’s official: Obama to send Locke to Beijing

President Barack Obama officially announced his intention to nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next U.S. Ambassador to China. "More than 100 years ago, Gary’s grandfather left China on a steamship bound for America, where he worked as a domestic servant in Washington State. A century later, his grandson will return to China ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

President Barack Obama officially announced his intention to nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next U.S. Ambassador to China.

"More than 100 years ago, Gary's grandfather left China on a steamship bound for America, where he worked as a domestic servant in Washington State. A century later, his grandson will return to China as America's top diplomat," Obama said standing aside Locke Wednesday morning at the White House. 

President Barack Obama officially announced his intention to nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next U.S. Ambassador to China.

"More than 100 years ago, Gary’s grandfather left China on a steamship bound for America, where he worked as a domestic servant in Washington State. A century later, his grandson will return to China as America’s top diplomat," Obama said standing aside Locke Wednesday morning at the White House. 

Obama focused heavily on the potential economic benefits of having Locke in Beijing. He said Locke was a leader on the National Export Initiative, increased exports to China, and led several trade missions there as Commerce Secretary.

"When he’s in Beijing, I know that American companies will be able to count on him to represent their interests in front of China’s top leaders," Obama said.

Locke also traveled to China several times during his eight years as governor of Washington state and ran a law practice at the Seattle-based firm of Davis Wright Tremaine that focused heavily on China-related issues. Locke also has deep connections to the Chinese leadership, which could come in handy if he’s confirmed by the Senate.

Of course, that confirmation is not assured, and many senators plan to use Locke’s confirmation process to press the administration on its strategy for changing Chinese behavior on a wide range of issues.

Obama then turned to Locke’s daughter Emily, who turned 14 Wednesday, to assure her moving to China would be a worthwhile experience.

"I was commiserating with her as somebody who moved around a lot when I was a kid as well. I assured her it would be great 10 years from now," Obama said. "Right now it’s probably a drag."

In his remarks, Locked talked about his Chinese-born father, who fought with the United States in World War II and passed away in January.

"But I know that if he were still alive, it would be one of his proudest moments to see his son named as the United States ambassador to his ancestral homeland," Locke said.

Obama also praised the work of outgoing Amb. Jon Huntsman, who continues to build his campaign infrastructure for a presidential run against Obama in 2012.

"During his tenure, Jon has been an outstanding advocate for this administration and for this country. He made a real sacrifice in moving his family out of the state that they loved and has helped to strengthen our critical relationship with the Chinese government and the Chinese people," Obama said.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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