Se­nate con­firms Bau­cus as new US am­bas­sador to China

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­

Se­na­tor Max Bau­cus was unan­i­mously ap­proved Thurs­day as the new US am­bas­sador to China.

The full Se­nate vote was 96 to 0. The 72-year-old Demo­cratic se­na­tor from Mon­tana ac­cepted con­grat­u­la­tions from his col­leagues in both par­ties be­fore a clear re­sult was an­nounced and be­fore he made a farewell ad­dress to the Se­nate, the body which he had served for more than 35 years.

“I never dreamed (I would see) a time that takes me back to China to rep­re­sent the United States, 50 years later,” Bau­cus said, re­fer­ring to his one-year hitch­hik­ing trip across the world in the early 1960s as a Stan­ford Univer­sity stu­dent, an ad­ven­ture that took him to coun­tries in Asia.

The con­fir­ma­tion came just two days af­ter the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee unan­i­mously en­dorsed Bau­cus’ nom­i­na­tion and less than seven weeks af­ter Politico first re­ported that the White House had se­lected Bau­cus for the job.

Bau­cus will suc­ceed Gary Locke, the for­mer Wash­ing­ton state gov­er­nor and US com­merce sec­re­tary and the first Chi­nese-Amer­i­can am­bas­sador to China, ap­pointed in 2011.

Ken­neth Lieberthal, se­nior fel­low at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, a Wash­ing­ton-based think tank, said Bau­cus’ pri­or­i­ties in Bei­jing should be to ef­fec­tively com­mu­ni­cate the de­ci­sions on US poli­cies made by the White House, State Depart­ment and other re­lated agen­cies and their ob­jec­tives, while seek­ing to un­der­stand and re­port ac­cu­rately rel­e­vant views and con­cerns in China.

Bau­cus’ back­ground “sug­gests that he is par­tic­u­larly well pre­pared on eco­nomic and trade and re­lated fi­nan­cial is­sues,” Lieberthal said.

“His back­ground also sug­gests that he will have to do his home­work to get up to speed on both China’s own sys­tem and pol­i­tics and on geopo­lit­i­cal is­sues,” he said.

Lieberthal de­scribed Bau­cus as well-po­si­tioned to in­ter­pret to the Chi­nese pub­lic and his coun­ter­parts the con­cerns, pol­i­tics and po­ten­tial im­pact of ac­tions by mem­bers of the US Congress and the ex­ec­u­tive branch.

“Ex­ec­u­tive branch clearly makes the pol­icy. But the Congress has a role to play, es­pe­cially on is­sues like bud­get, eco­nomic and trade and so forth,” said Lieberthal, de­scrib­ing Bau­cus as ar­tic­u­late and in­tel­li­gent.

A Mon­tana na­tive, Bau­cus has chaired the pow­er­ful Se­nate Fi­nance Com­mit­tee since 2007. The mod­er­ate Demo­crat was praised Thurs­day by Maria Cantwell, a Demo­cratic Se­na­tor from Wash­ing­ton, for his abil­ity to do deals. Bau­cus has a record of be­ing able to work on a bi­par­ti­san ba­sis de­spite the oc­ca­sional op­po­si­tion from his fel­low Democrats.

Bau­cus has re­port­edly vis­ited China eight times and hosted many trade del­e­ga­tions from China. He played a role in help­ing China to join the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2001.

Bau­cus’con­fir­ma­tion came as the US and China try to build “a new type of ma­jor coun­try re­la­tion­ship”, as pledged by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping when they met in Sun­ny­lands, Cal­i­for­nia, last June.

The two coun­tries have de­vel­oped an ever more-in­ter­twined eco­nomic and trade re­la­tion­ship. Mil­i­tary ex­changes also have in­creased in past years, re­flected by US De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel’s ex­pected China visit this year and China’s plan to par­tic­i­pate in the Rim of Pa­cific naval ex­er­cise in Hawaii this year, for the first time.

How­ever, the two coun­tries of­ten re­main sus­pi­cious of each other’s strate­gic in­ten­tions, rais­ing con­cerns about a po­ten­tial arms race in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion. The escalating ten­sion be­tween China and Ja­pan over the dis­puted is­lands in the East China Sea has the po­ten­tial to draw the US into an un­in­tended armed con­flict due to its de­fense treaty obli­ga­tions with Ja­pan.

In a hear­ing be­fore the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee on Jan 28, Bau­cus de­scribed the US-China re­la­tion­ship as one of the most im­por­tant bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ships in the world.

“It will shape global af­fairs for gen­er­a­tions to come. We must get it right,” he said.

Bau­cus stressed the im­por­tance of trade re­la­tions with China. “From my first of­fi­cial visit to China in 1993 to my most re­cent trip in 2010, I have worked through eco­nomic diplo­macy to strengthen ties be­tween the United States and China,” he said. “I look for­ward to con­tin­u­ing that work to build a stronger, more eq­ui­table eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship be­tween our coun­tries.”

Bau­cus said at the hear­ing that if con­firmed, he would want to ac­com­plish two over-arch­ing goals that are crit­i­cal to the US’s re­la­tion­ship with China and that could help achieve a safer, more pros­per­ous world, a shared in­ter­est.

The goals, ac­cord­ing to Bau­cus, are to de­velop the eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship with China in a way that ben­e­fits Amer­i­can busi­ness and work­ers; and to part­ner with China as it emerges as a global power and en­cour­age it to act re­spon­si­bly in re­solv­ing in­ter­na­tional dis­putes, re­spect­ing hu­man rights and pro­tect­ing the en­vi­ron­ment.

He re­called his 2010 visit to China when he met Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, then the vice-pres­i­dent. Bau­cus said lead­ers from both sides have rec­og­nized that the two coun­tries have much more to gain from co­op­er­a­tion than from con­flict.

“I be­lieve that as well, and I see many ar­eas of our re­la­tion­ship where co­op­er­a­tion is not only pos­si­ble, but vi­tal,” he said.

Last Apr i l , Bau­cus an­nounced a plan to re­tire from the Se­nate in 2015. Some be­lieve his early de­par­ture will help a Demo­cratic can­di­date in Mon­tana to fill the seat. Un­der the law, Mon­tana’s Demo­cratic Gov­er­nor Steve Bul­lock can name a tem­po­rary re­place­ment for Bau­cus be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tion.


US Se­na­tor Max Bau­cus tes­ti­fies be­fore the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee on Jan 28, fol­low­ing his nom­i­na­tion by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to be the next US am­bas­sador to China. Bau­cus won unan­i­mous ap­proval by the Se­nate on Thurs­day.

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