Influential Senator Max Baucus is reported to have been chosen as the next U.S. ambassador to China, filling one of America's most complicated diplomatic posts at a time of increased tension with Beijing.
Senate aides say President Barack Obama could announce as soon as Thursday the nomination of Baucus, a veteran lawmaker with a record of taking a tough stance on controversial Chinese trade practices.
Responding to the reports, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said whoever becomes ambassador should work to promote healthy U.S.-China relations.
"The current U.S.-China relationship maintains a momentum of stable and healthy development in general. Both sides are working together to build a new pattern of relationship between the two powers. We hope no matter who becomes the next U.S. ambassador to China, that person will make active efforts to promote communication, mutual trust and cooperation between the two countries," he said.
Baucus, a 72-year-old from the state of Montana, already announced he would retire from the Senate at the end of 2014. He currently serves as the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which deals with tax and revenue issues.
If his expected nomination is confirmed by the U.S. Senate., the Democratic lawmaker would be tasked with helping execute the White House's strategic rebalancing toward Asia.
Though Baucus has met several times with Chinese President Xi Jinping, he has limited experience dealing with U.S.-China security issues.
U.S.-China relations have been strained by Beijing's recent declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, which covers territory also claimed by U.S. ally Japan.
Baucus would replace current Ambassador Gary Locke, who announced last month he would step down to spend more time with his family.