U.S. Senate confirms Gary Locke as ambassador to China

09:12, July 28, 2011      

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The U.S. Senate on Wednesday confirmed former Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as ambassador to China, making him the first Chinese-American ever to take the post.

Locke, 61, won unanimous confirmation in the Senate voice vote. He succeeds Jon Huntsman, a Republican who has resigned to run for the White House in 2012.

U.S. President Barack Obama tapped Locke for the post on March 9, saying that no one is better qualified for the diplomatic post than Locke.

At a May 26 Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on his nomination, Locke called "a sign of the importance of the bilateral relationship" between U.S. and China. Obama's nomination of a current member of his cabinet to serve in the new post vacated when Huntsman left for home in April.

"If confirmed by the Senate, I pledge to help build the positive, cooperative and comprehensive relationship that Presidents Obama and Hu have agreed that our two nations should aspire to," Locke told the committee, saying that he would help U. S. companies do more business in China as well as work to expand bilateral cooperation on a host of critical international issues, "from stopping nuclear proliferation to rebalancing the global economy to combating climate change."

Born into an immigrant family on Jan. 21, 1950, Locke spent his first six years in Seattle's Yesler Terrace, a public housing project for families of World War II veterans. He worked in his father's grocery store, became an Eagle Scout and graduated with honors from Seattle's Franklin High School in 1968. Through a combination of part-time jobs, financial aid and scholarships, Locke attended Yale University, earning a bachelor's degree in political science in 1972.

After receiving his law degree from Boston University in 1975, Locke worked for several years as a deputy prosecutor in King County of Washington state, prosecuting felony crimes. In 1982, he was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives, where he served on the Judiciary and Appropriations committees, with his final five years spent as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Locke, a Democrat, was elected Washington state's 21st governor on Nov. 5, 1996, becoming the first Chinese-American governor in U. S. history. He won reelection on Nov. 7, 2000.

Obama nominated Locke as commerce secretary in February, 2009, and Locke was sworn in on May 1 the same year.

Locke and his wife, Mona Lee Locke, a former reporter for the NBC affiliate KING 5 television in Seattle, were married on Oct. 15, 1994. They have three children.

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