Gary Locke, the former two-term governor of Washington and current U.S. commerce secretary, was confirmed Wednesday as the new U.S. ambassador to China.
The Senate unanimously approved the appointment of Locke, the son of Chinese immigrants and the first Chinese-American to become governor of an American state.
In 1997, during his first year as Washington’s governor, Locke led a much-publicized state trade mission to China where he visited his grandfather’s village and highlighted the state’s exports to the Pacific Rim.
He decided not to run for a third term in 2004, and joined a Seattle law firm that specializes in international law. In 2009, he was chosen by President Barack Obama to lead the U.S. Commerce Department, which conducted the 2010 Census in addition to handling business and trade issues.
Fellow Democrat Patty Murray, the state’s senior U.S. senator, hailed the confirmation as a key to strong relations between the United States and China.
“Making sure the U.S.-China partnership continues to work for both nations is absolutely critical to ensuring our ability to compete and succeed in the 21st century global economy,” Murray said in a news release immediately following the Senate confirmation.
Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in a news release that Locke’s understanding of Asian issues make him “uniquely qualified” for the job. “Ambassador Locke’s credentials give him the opportunity for even more frank dialogue between America and China, which is crucial for our nation and the state’s economy.”