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March 18, 2014

New Ambassador: Improved US-China Ties Top Priority

by Shannon Van Sant

The new U.S. Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, has begun his job by stressing the importance of the U.S.-China relationship.

Less than 24 hours after landing in Beijing to take up his new job, Ambassador Max Baucus told reporters Monday he would push for an improvement in ties between the two countries. 

"The United States-China relationship is one of America's most important bilateral relationships and it will shape global affairs for generations to come.  We simply must get it right," he said.

He succeeds Gary Locke, who stressed human rights in his farewell speech, during which he said China’s development depends on rule of law, an independent judiciary and freedom of speech. 

Baucus, a former U.S. senator, said strengthening economic ties was his top priority, but that he would urge Beijing “to support the laws, norms, values and human rights” that support the international system. 

The United States has sought China's cooperation on a number of issues, including efforts to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program, and to end the Syrian civil war.  But the two governments have often had conflicts, including over China's increasing territorial claims in the South China Sea, and over economic policy.
 
Baucus said the U.S.-China relationship required sustained high-level engagement. 

“Leaders on both sides have recognized that we have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict,” he said.

Chinese news media have welcomed Ambassador Baucus’ arrival in Beijing, with one editorial in the state-run China Daily newspaper proclaiming he can bring China to the U.S. Congress.