New en­voy ‘must find right mix’

Pos­si­ble US am­bas­sador Bau­cus called a big fig­ure for a big re­la­tion­ship

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By CHEN WEIHUA in Wash­ing­ton and ZHANG YUNBI in Bei­jing

Max Bau­cus, ex­pected to be nom­i­nated as the next US am­bas­sador to China, will have to play a bal­anc­ing act be­tween im­ple­ment­ing Wash­ing­ton’s poli­cies and ad­dress­ing Bei­jing’s con­cerns over its strate­gic in­ter­ests, ob­servers said.

Bau­cus, a long-time Demo­cratic se­na­tor who is chair­man of the Se­nate Com­mit­tee on Fi­nance, is ex­pected to be nom­i­nated by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama to re­place Gary Locke, who is leav­ing of­fice early next year.

The news of Bau­cus’ im­pend­ing nom­i­na­tion, re­ported by Politico, came as a sur­prise to some China watch­ers, be­cause Bau­cus’ links with China — in­clud­ing his Se­nate role in han­dling trade dis­putes — seem far less ob­vi­ous than his pre­de­ces­sor’s.

The Mon­tana na­tive has served in the Se­nate since 1978 and has been the chair­man of the pow­er­ful Fi­nance Com­mit­tee since 2007. He also heads and serves on sev­eral other com­mit­tees, such as tax­a­tion, agri­cul­ture, trans­porta­tion and in­fra­struc­ture, and deficit re­duc­tion.

Dou­glas Paal, vice-pres­i­dent for stud­ies at the Carnegie En­dow­ment for In­ter­na­tional Peace, said Bau­cus would bring to the ta­ble years of care­ful stew­ard­ship of the US-China trade re­la­tion­ship.

“He brings se­ri­ous Se­nate ac­com­plish­ments, ac­cess to the pres­i­dent and to key se­na­tors. That is more than most am­bas­sadors have been able to of­fer. He is a big fig­ure for a big re­la­tion­ship,” Paal said.

Bau­cus has been a keen ad­vo­cate for lo­cal busi­nesses in Mon­tana, and he has vis­ited China eight times. He hosted trade del­e­ga­tions from China in both Wash­ing­ton and Mon­tana.

Bei­jing ex­pressed hope on Thurs­day re­gard­ing the pos­si­ble nom­i­na­tion of Bau­cus.

“We ex­pect joint ef­forts with a new US am­bas­sador to push for­ward the last­ing, healthy and sta­ble de­vel­op­ment of the Sino-US re­la­tion­ship,” said For­eign Min­istry spokes­woman Hua Chun­y­ing.

Shi Yin­hong, a pro­fes­sor of US stud­ies at Ren­min Univer­sity of China in Bei­jing, said Bau­cus is a vet­eran in han­dling trade and fi­nan­cial is­sues, but “it re­mains to be seen” whether he will con­trib­ute to elim­i­nat­ing trade dis­putes be­tween the world’s two largest economies.

The vet­eran Demo­crat also led the US ef­fort in the 1990s to es­tab­lish Per­ma­nent Nor­mal Trade Re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries and to bring China into the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

But dur­ing a trip to China in 2011, he com­plained about China’s cur­rency pol­icy and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty sit­u­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to a news re­lease from his of­fice.

The Wash­ing­ton Post de­scribed Max Bau­cus as some­one who shares the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s views on how to ap­proach del­i­cate re­la­tions, such as cur­rency, in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights, la­bor, the en­vi­ron­ment and hu­man rights.

The new top en­voy is also ex­pected to be cau­tious in pub­lic re­marks, be­cause “the Si­noUS re­la­tion­ship is cur­rently go­ing well, but di­ver­gence re­mains in re­gard to China’s strate­gic in­ter­ests”, Shi said.

“Bau­cus should avoid mis­un­der­stand­ings in the fu­ture when it comes to China’s strate­gic in­ter­ests, and play a con­struc­tive role in de­vel­op­ing the Sino-US re­la­tion­ship, not the op­po­site,” Shi said.

De­spite con­flict­ing opin­ions in trade and mar­itime in­ter­ests, the coun­tries “have worked in a proac­tive man­ner this year to ex­pand com­mon ground and avoid ru­in­ing the big pic­ture of bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion”, said Cui Liru, a se­nior re­search fel­low of US stud­ies at the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions.

Cui said “the com­pet­ing side and the co­op­er­a­tive side will def­i­nitely con­tinue to co-ex­ist in the bi­lat­eral con­text”.

Politico said Bau­cus’ ex­pected nom­i­na­tion had been ru­mored in con­gres­sional cir­cles in the past month, but it only be­came clear in re­cent days that the White House would make the ap­point­ment.

For­mer US Con­gress­man from Oregon David Wu de­scribed Bau­cus as “low-key”, “very thought­ful,” some­one who “does his home­work” and “an ex­pert in tax, com­mer­cial and busi­ness mat­ters”.

“He will be ev­ery bit as knowl­edge­able about China as just about any of our am­bas­sadors to China,” Wu said.

Bau­cus, who turned 72 on Dec 11, an­nounced on April 23 that he would re­tire from the Se­nate at the end of his term in 2015. Last month, Locke, the cur­rent US am­bas­sador to China, an­nounced that he would step down early next year, cit­ing per­sonal rea­sons.

The ex­pected nom­i­na­tion, how­ever, still re­quires con­fir­ma­tion from the US Se­nate, but sit­ting US se­na­tors nor­mally don’t face much ob­jec­tions from col­leagues.

Orville Schell, Arthur Ross Di­rec­tor of the Center on USChina Re­la­tions at Asia So­ci­ety, said: “Al­though Max Bau­cus is not ex­tremely well known in pop­u­lar Amer­i­can lore like Caro­line Kennedy, nor is he a China spe­cial­ist, he is a re­tir­ing se­nior se­na­tor with sub­stan­tial in­ter­est and ex­pe­ri­ence in trade and for­eign pol­icy is­sues.”

“More­over, his long ex­pe­ri­ence in the Se­nate and Demo­cratic Party pol­i­tics should give him both the ear of the pres­i­dent and clout with the Congress, which is im­por­tant,” Schell said.

Se­na­tor Max Bau­cus is re­port­edly US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s pick for next am­bas­sador to China.

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