The US will have a new ambassador to China in early 2014. Gary Locke, who has served in that role since July 27, 2011, said this morning that he will step down “to rejoin my family in Seattle.” SCMP has the full text of Locke’s statement.
WSJ reports that the announcement “took many of [embassy staff] by surprise.” Also:
Mr. Locke’s wife and three children moved to Beijing with him in 2011 but returned to Seattle several months ago primarily so his eldest daughter could finish high school there, according to embassy staff. The staff said there was no official word yet on his replacement.
Locke, of course, was the first Asian American to take the post. (He’s a third-generation Chinese American, with his visits to his ancestral home in Taishan, Guangdong attracting a hero’s welcome.) His tenure was marked by more than a little drama — Chen Guangcheng happened, and anti-Japanese protests over the Diaoyu Islands that resulted in protesters surrounding Locke’s car, and all the other fun everyday stuff between the world’s foremost superpowers. You’ll remember that Locke had an auspicious start by being photographed at Starbucks wearing a backpack and buying his own coffee.
Gary Locke is stepping down as Ambassador to China because he can “no longer afford to shop at Starbucks here”
— China Daily Show (@chinadailyshow) November 20, 2013
Anyhow, we wish Gary Locke well. Meanwhile, Clark T. Randt Jr.’s record for longest tenure as US ambassador to the PRC remains safe at seven years, six months, and eight days.
UPDATE, 11:59 pm: Barbara Demick spoke to Locke for the LA Times:
“We wanted our kids to have junior and senior year of high school back in the United States,” Locke said in a telephone interview on Wednesday from the Beijing Capital International Airport, where he was about to fly on a trade mission to Kunming in southwestern China.