China Warns “Backpacker” US Ambassador of Heavy Burden Ahead

Posted August 15th, 2011 at 5:05 am (UTC-5)
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Chinese state media warned Monday that the joyful reception given the new U.S. ambassador in Beijing should not be mistaken for a solution to the two countries’ problems.

Gary Locke, the first Chinese American to serve as U.S. ambassador to China, created a media sensation when he arrived of Friday carrying his own luggage and traveling from the airport in a modest car.

But the official Xinhua news agency, which labeled him “the backpacker,” noted a number of problems that Locke will have to deal with, including strains over trade, military relations and the U.S. debt. It said Locke’s mission will be “much heavier than the bag he carried on the way to China.”

The Global Times newspaper also noted Locke’s modest arrival and described him as “possibly the most recognizable American ambassador to China in history.” But it said his Chinese origins will not mean a softer stance when it comes to defending U.S. interests.

At a press conference in Beijing Sunday, Locke pledged to strengthen bilateral ties, saying China-U.S. cooperation in business, science and academia could lead to solutions to “many of the problems facing the entire world.”

Flanked by family members at his official residence, Locke told reporters the United States is working to get its financial house in order. China holds the largest amount of U.S. treasury debt.

In his previous job as U.S. commerce secretary, Locke said Chinese companies enjoy more opportunities in the United States than American firms do in China. In response, the Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing is continuing to improve the legal framework for foreign investment.

Locke replaces Jon Huntsman, who left the ambassador post earlier this year to explore a U.S. presidential bid.