Saturday, 1 March 2014

Parting Shots

Gary Locke making one of his final speeches in Beijing as US Ambassador
US Ambassador to China Gary Locke left Beijing today after two-and-a-half years in the post.

Many Chinese citizens were taken with him, from carrying his own bags to using coupons to buy Starbucks coffee.

But during his time in Beijing, his diplomatic skills were put to the test twice.

First was in February 2012 when Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai's former right hand man fled to the US Embassy in Chengdu and may have requested for political asylum but was denied and forced to surrender to security officials.

Then in April that year blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng made a daring escape from house arrest and fled to the US Embassy in the Chinese capital. Locke may have bungled this incident as he left Chen behind in the hospital and wasn't able to get in contact with him again nor promise security.

Nevertheless, in the end Chen and his family were able to fly to the United States, thus defusing a possible conflict with China as then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting China.

In his farewell remarks to a group of young Chinese, Locke encouraged the mainland to accept more criticism within and outside the country.

"China should have the national self-confidence to withstand the media scrutiny that most of the world takes for granted," he said. Locke also stressed the importance of rule of law and human rights.

However, a Chinese state media outlet seemed too pleased to see Locke leave.

China News Service is the second-largest news wire service after Xinhua and it didn't hesitate to call the Chinese-American a "yellow-skinned white hearted banana man".

In addition to using a number of racist descriptions of the ambassador, China News Service said: "Mr Locke not only does not understand the writing of his ancestors, but also failed to understand Chinese law. He particularly likes to gesticulate profusely and criticize indiscriminately Chinese domestic affairs".

"Every time US officials visited China, Mr Locke would send a report and talk up China's so-called human rights and Tibetan issues, suggesting to US officials to use the opportunity to pound China," it said.

"If your ancestors had known about [your professional record], they would have thrown you out of the house."

The news agency even accused Locke of exploiting Beijing's horrible air pollution as a publicity stunt.

And China claims it is using its soft power to influence the world? This commentary is hardly diplomatic -- in fact it gives a schizophrenic view of the mainland as a two-faced country that tries to give a modern and fresh impression, but in fact is vile and black-hearted.

Being racist is somewhat amusing as Locke is ethnically one of them, but the Chinese don't see it that way. If you're American with a Chinese face, you're considered American...

Is this the real face China wants outsiders to see?