Washington’s outgoing ambassador to Beijing has ended his three-year posting on a combative note, saying Chinese travellers’ experience of freedoms and democracy during trips to the US could encourage them to “want some of those same things”.
Gary Locke is leaving Beijing at a time of heightened Sino-US tension over issues ranging from President Barack Obama’s recent meeting with the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, to Beijing’s declaration of an air defence identification zone over the East China Sea last year.
Since his appointment in 2011, Mr Locke has been at the centre of a series of diplomatic spats between China and the US, one of which led to Beijing’s highest-level political purge since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
In a wide-ranging farewell briefing on Wednesday, Mr Locke emphasised the importance of streamlining visa applications for Chinese tourists and business people. “Part of the reason for doing that is?.?.?.?to enable more Chinese to experience America, to see first-hand our freedoms, our democracy, our diversity,” he said. “I hope that perhaps from their experiences in the US they’ll want some of those same things in China or understand what is possible in China.”
As Washington’s first Chinese-American ambassador to Beijing, Mr Locke has been a popular figure in China even while clashing with Chinese government officials on a number of fronts. He will be succeeded by Max Baucus, a former Montana senator.
In a reference to the recent war of words between Beijing and Tokyo over a group of islands administered by Japan, Mr Locke warned both sides of “an unintended incident that leads to unintended consequences” and also spoke of the need for “more direct and instantaneous” communication between the US and Chinese militaries.
The People’s Liberation Army and the Pentagon established a “defence telephone link” after a Chinese jet collided with a US surveillance aircraft over the South China Sea in 2001. But the DTL does not function as a direct hotline, as military-to-military discussions over it must be scheduled in advance. “You need to make sure there are the right people available monitoring these attempts to communicate, whether it’s picking up the phone or receiving the email or the secure cables,” Mr Locke said. “You can have all the mechanisms in the world, but if no one’s there to act upon it then it doesn’t make much sense.”
Mr Locke was unapologetic about his engagement with Tibetans and Uighurs – ethnic groups whose home regions in China are increasingly restive – as well as religious leaders and legal activists, saying US diplomats were eager to “learn about what they were doing and see how we could support them”.
“Human rights is about more than just economic prosperity,” Mr Locke said. “It is also about fundamental and universal rights, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly?.?.?.?We call on China to improve its record.”
The ambassador referred to the failed asylum request in 2012 of Wang Lijun, a former Chinese police chief, as a “very, very intense 48-hour period”. Mr Wang’s flight to a US consulate led to the purge and prosecution of Bo Xilai, the then party head of Chongqing, China’s most populous city.
2001年一架中国战斗机在南中国海与一架美国侦察机发生碰撞后，中国人民解放军与美国五角大楼建立了“国防电话联系”（defence telephone link，简称DTL）。但DTL在功能上并不是直通的热线，因为两军通过它进行的讨论必须提前预定。“你需要确保有合适的人员值班，随时监控此类联络尝试——无论是拿起电话，还是接收电子邮件或安全电报。”骆家辉表示，“你可以拥有世界上所有的机制，但如果没有人在岗位上值守、采取行动，那就没有多大意义。”