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Obama Names Locke as New China Ambassador

President Barack Obama, left, announces that Commerce Sec. Gary Locke, right, will be the next US ambassador to China in the Diplomatic Room of the White House March, 9, 2011

U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as the new ambassador to China.

In remarks at the White House Wednesday, Obama said Locke is the right person to continue America's efforts to boost cooperation with China. He said he can think of no one who is more qualified than Locke.

If approved by the Senate, Locke will be the first Chinese-American to hold the top diplomatic post in China. Locke's grandfather and father were born in China.

Locke said he will perform his duties "as a devoted and passionate advocate for America, the country where I was born and raised."

Locke would replace Jon Huntsman, who is resigning next month and who is seen as a possible Republican challenger to Obama in the next presidential election.

Locke previously served two terms as the governor of the northwestern state of Washington. He visited China several times during his time in state office and is credited with boosting trade between the country and his state.

He also visited China last year on a trade mission to promote American clean energy business. As commerce secretary, Locke has pushed China to drop trade barriers and to do more to protect intellectual property rights.

Chinese media had mostly favorable reactions to news of Locke's appointment. China's former envoy to the United States, Zhou Wenzhong, was quoted in The Beijing News on Wednesday calling Locke knowledgeable and friendly toward China.

But scholar Yuan Peng warned in China's Global Times that Locke may try to use his heritage and "Chinese-looking face" to "swindle" the Chinese people.