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Seattle Chinese Welcome Locke's Nomination

Hansi Lo Wang

Marge Luke Young is ecstatic about Gary Locke becoming the next US ambassador to China.

Young: "A Chinese ambassador to China — I love it! Who would have thought?"

Young is the sister of the late Wing Luke. He was a former Seattle city councilman, and the first Asian–American elected to public office in the Pacific Northwest. Former Washington governor Gary Locke was nominated this week to take the top US diplomatic post in China. KUOW's Hansi Lo Wang talked to members of the Seattle Chinese–American community about the news.


Gary Locke moved to Washington, D.C. in 2009 to lead the US Commerce Department. But Cassie Chinn says Chinese Americans in Seattle still consider Locke part of the community. She's the deputy executive director of the Wing Luke Museum, which features exhibits on Asian Pacific American history.

Chinn: "He's a friend of ours. He was here, you know, and came from these roots. And I think that's something that we are able to point to with pride."

Just down the street in Seattle's International District is a senior home called Legacy House. The residents are finishing lunch and gathering for afternoon activities. Min Qiu Huang is a staff member there.

Huang: (Speaks in Cantonese.)

Speaking in Cantonese, Huang says Gary Locke's nomination has deep meaning for the Chinese community. She's beaming as she describes how proud the news made her feel.

Huang: (Speaks in Cantonese.)

First, it's an honor for us all, she says. She thinks Locke's nomination brings an opportunity to improve relations between America and China.

As governor, Locke was known for his good relations with Chinese leaders. During his two terms, he oversaw increasing trade between that country and Washington state. Reporters who have accompanied him on trips to China say he's treated there like a rock star.

But since his nomination this week, some Chinese language news sites have gotten critical comments on Locke's lack of "Chinese–ness" for being born and raised in the US.

Cassie Chinn at the Wing Luke Museum says Locke's Chinese–American identity will give him an advantage to negotiate between the two countries.

Chinn: "Gary Locke, you know, coming from an American–born experience does have specific perspectives. But there's also that connecting point because the families have connected over the waters for so many decades as well."

Speaking at the White House Wednesday, Locke acknowledged that his new assignment would be a homecoming of sorts to his ancestors' birthplace.

Locke: "And I'll be doing so as a devoted and passionate advocate for America, the country where I was born and raised."

The next step is for Locke to go before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for an official confirmation.

For KUOW News, I'm Hansi Lo Wang.

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