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Originally published Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 4:35 PM

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Gary Locke is excellent choice for U.S. ambassador to China

President Obama's choice of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the new U.S. ambassador to China is a promising pick for Washington state and the country.

PRESIDENT Obama made a wise choice by tapping Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the new U.S. ambassador to China. Locke was the nation's first Chinese-American governor, and if confirmed by the Senate, would be the first Chinese-American ambassador to China.

Technically, a move from cabinet to ambassador could be a demotion or lateral action, but in this case it is a promotion. This is not just any ambassadorship. It's ambassador to China, the fastest-growing large economy in the world. This relationship is fairly categorized as one of the United States' most critical of the 21st century.

The president puts much faith in Locke at a crucial time. Obama said he expects Locke to advocate for American businesses and boost exports and jobs.

Locke's appointment is good news for Washington, which is not only prideful that he learned some of his management and diplomacy skills here. His appointment is also promising because he is so familiar with our products: airplanes, coffee, software. Locke took three small green-energy companies from the state on a recent trade mission to China and helped them make a connection.

Locke has key skills in another area.

"The U.S. can't move forward aggressively with China unless we get more done on the piracy issue and intellectual property; you need somebody China will listen to," said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington state.

Locke fits that bill.

At Commerce, Locke oversaw the U.S. Census, which came in under budget. He was rightly proud of that.

Locke has been involved with the president and fellow cabinet members on a broad spectrum of key U.S. foreign policy issues with China, including green technology and currency valuation.

In other words, he does not come to the post as a rookie or someone unfamiliar with China and the Asia-Pacific region. As governor, Locke traveled to his family's homeland in southern China and began a relationship with Chinese leaders, which continues.

He is a known and respected quantity in China. This is no cushy position. Locke will have to work doggedly to improve trade and build a broader relationship with a rising world power.

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