Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Locke for Commerce?

The Seattle Times reports that Gary Locke (Wiki) is being considered for the Commerce position.
President Barack Obama's likely third pick for Commerce secretary is former Washington Gov. Gary Locke, a senior administration official said Monday.

Locke, a Democrat, was the nation's first Chinese-American governor when he served two terms in the Washington statehouse from 1997 to 2005.
Note the quote at the bottom of the article:
Since leaving office he's been working for the Seattle-based law firm Davis Wright Tremaine on issues involving China, energy and governmental relations. He argues that global engagement is a way to improve China's human rights record and deal with piracy of intellectual property.
As I am sure my readers know, the idea that "global engagement is a way to improve China's human rights record" is panda-hugging bullshit for "I don't give a damn how many people China locks up, how many neighbors it threatens and invades, and how inimical China is to the interests of the US and its allies, I just want to cash in." Davis Wright Tremaine does a rousing business in and about China, so Locke will be one of many Obama Administration officials who come out such backgrounds. Locke is married to a woman of Chinese extraction, and visited China a few years back, where he was feted as a "lost brother" etc etc.

Urk.

UPDATE: My friend Andrew writes:

I usually vote Democrat and I voted for Locke two times, but I feel at this time I must make a written appeal against him as a nominee for Secretary of Commerce.

First, I would like to commend Mr. Locke on the fine work he has done in reaching out to the Asian American communities of the Pacific Northwest and for his dedicated service to the State of Washington.

Regardless, as a leader of Seattle's Taiwanese American community between 2004 and 2006, I deeply regret that Mr. Locke never took the time to answer our repeated concerns regarding his business and political dealings with China. I personally sent Mr. Locke and his firm three letters on behalf of our community and Mr. Locke simply chose not to acknowledge us. This behavior was in sharp contrast to that of Governor Christine Gregoire, who offered her assurances and acknowledgement of our position.

In our letters we sought to voice caution to Mr. Locke's dealings with the PRC. We understood his commitment to fostering improved economic relations between Washington State and the People's Republic of China (PRC), but we felt it would be irresponsible for our state representatives to blindly pursue business relationships without addressing the threat the PRC poses to peace and stability in the Pacific rim, through its rapid militarization, which is aimed, not just at democratic Taiwan, but beyond.

In recent years, the PRC has leveraged its growing economic clout against foreign nations to buy complacency over its aggressive acquisition of advanced military hardware aimed at keeping the people of Taiwan from expressing their desire to be recognized internationally as members of a free and independent Taiwanese nation. President Hu Jintao's "One China Policy", and the continued threat of military action against Taiwan, is not merely a danger to the Taiwanese people, but it is also a danger to Washington State's vitally important Asia-Pacific trade as the PRC attempts to project power deep into the Pacific. Under the rule of Mr. Locke's friend President Hu, the PRC has increased its arsenal of offensive weapons, including warships, submarines, aircraft carriers, advanced tactical fighter jets, and over 1200 medium range ballistic missiles, all of which are to be deployed as terror weapons in an attempt to suppress Taiwan's burgeoning national identity. Recently, a military general from the PRC boasted of deploying nuclear weapons against the United States should the US attempt to abide by its legal obligation to defend Taiwan against a PRC attack.

Furthermore, China continues to resist efforts to recognize the universal human rights of all people. This is evident through its violent campaigns against religious groups, Tibetan autonomy and overall political dissent. Locke and other US leaders have maintained a policy which assumes a "superiority" over the Chinese and therefore, the policy follows, "if we can make them more like us then they will improve". This is delusional neocolonial thinking that assumes there is a superior and inferior way of doing things and therefore the superior will naturally win. The truth of the matter is, those with power over others do not relinquish that power voluntarily. China's ills will not change with increased trade, those with power will only amass more wealth and more power.

It was our hope that Mr. Locke would have had the moral courage, in the interest of Washington State, and in our shared values of human rights, dignity and peace for all people, to impart on President Hu the importance of human rights, an unconditional peace in the Pacific and in the need for a reduction in the PRC's outlandish military spending.

At no time has Mr. Locke ever take the opportunity to raise these issues with his Chinese friends and we feel he will lead the United States blindly toward an even greater reliance on China, to a position in which we, as Americans, will not be able to hold our heads high with the knowledge that we value our own ideals and the creed of our nation enough to stand up against universal injustice and stand for the basic rights of all people.

Please write to your representatives and voice your concerns regarding this appointment.

Thank You!

Andrew D. Kerslake
UPDATE 2: Locke lays out his philosophy of engagement in this short interview. A highlight:
Q: How would you deal with the problem of Internet censorship in China?

A: It really requires cooperation and agreements among governments around the world on basic protocols and basic standards in the flow of information. Our definition of pornography is tougher than the definition in Europe. Things we absolutely do not allow are legal in Europe. Things that are illegal in Europe are legal in the United States. Things legal all over the world are illegal in the Middle East.

It puts international companies in an untenable position responding to different standards by each separate government. What we really need to be pursuing is having China and the U.S. participate in creating those standards.

17 comments:

Andrew said...

I voted for Locke twice for Governor of Washington State.

When I served as the president of the FAPA chapter based in Seattle, we tried on several occasions to contact Gary Locke in response to his overtures to China. Locke hosted China's leader Hu Jin Tao on a trip that took him to Seattle, where he was to meed with Microsoft's President Bill Gates and other area business people. During the trip Hu was shielded from the several groups protesting, with Locke playing he key role as Hu's "Seattle connection".

I personally wrote three letters to Mr. Locke and his firm on behalf of Seattle's Taiwanese community, not with the unrealistic message that businesses should avoid China completely, but with the message that mutual economic prosperity between Seattle and the PRC should be tied to both respect for human rights and maintained peace in the Pacific. I specifically asked Mr. Locke to please take the time to address with Hu, China's military build-up and missile deployment as a matter of concern to a peaceful Pacific and economic stability in the region.

Mr. Locke never responded to our community's concerns and at no time did he ever raise the issue of human rights or China's commitment to peace in the Pacific.

When Mr. Locke visited China on behalf of his firm, he was feted my China's leaders with banquets, tours and even a "sentimental" trip to his family's "hometown".

I am very concerned that Locke will emphasize even greater reliance on China's presumed economic growth. I hope everyone who is concerned with this appointment will send a letter to your representative.

Wulingren said...

I'm not really sure exactly what the Secretary of Commerce does, though I suppose, judging from the name, it has something to do with trade and business. I'm just happy it's not Gregg. As for the idea of engagement, during the days of the Clinton administration, I was generally supportive of the idea, but back then, there were basically carrots--such as most-favored nation status and the Olympics--with which to entice the Chinese government. I don't see what carrots there are anymore, except for the ones China itself possesses: "Do you want to do business in our country?" It still seems, though, that engagement (though it perhaps needs to be better formulated) is a better strategy than the one employed when dealing (or not dealing) with say Iran. Part of the problem I see is that engagement has come to mean simply making it easier for the flow of capital, making it easier for certain people (mostly businesses) to get rich, to set up businesses and trade opportunities, without any kind of idealistic vision beyond the pursuit of money. We hear so much about economic prosperity in China and about China's powerful economy, and discussion is so often framed in terms of its government, or "China" as a singular entity and actor, but that is not the view one sees from the ground, when encountering real people. In my travels there, I have met so many genuinely decent people, many of whom are not reaping the benefits of the economic explosion, people who looked at my camera in awe and had trouble grasping the notion that I came from a different time-zone. Does saying that make me a Panda-hugger? I know you are using it to discuss politics, but its use reminds too much of other expressions thrown about, often by conservatives, such as "tree-hugger" (for someone who cares about the environment) or "bleeding-heart" (for someone who gets worked up about suffering in the world). I've heard people like Lou Dobbs use the expression, and it gave me a woozy feeling then. I say this as one who reads your blog regularly and often agrees with what you say.

Michael Turton said...

Well, however you term it, Locke has the kind of pro-China attitude that Beijing likes its counterparts in the US to have....

Robert R. said...

@Wulingren:
discussion is so often framed in terms of its government, or "China" as a singular entity and actor, but that is not the view one sees from the ground, when encountering real people. In my travels there, I have met so many genuinely decent people...

There are many nice folks in China, however most of the issues people have with China are caused by the government. I'll even posit that there exist decent people within the government.

However, neither the citizenry, nor the vast majority of government officials have control over foreign policy, economic policy, internal repression, or internal and external propaganda.

Wulingren said...

Robert,

Yes, I think that's my point.

reeb said...

Part of what the Commerce Sec is responsible for is to try convince foreigners to purchase T-bills and FNM/FRE agency paper (good luck with that from now on). He also has a hand in granting export permits for military gear. With Locke in charge, I would guess that arms sales to Taiwan will not materialize.

From what I've read, the reason that Gregg didn't take the position is that Rahm Emmanuel took the census department away from Commerce. This is valuable as it is used to re-define electoral districts.

Taiwan John said...

Hi Michael. You say that "As I am sure my readers know, the idea that "global engagement is a way to improve China's human rights record" is panda-hugging bullshit for "I don't give a damn how many people China locks up, how many neighbors it threatens and invades, and how inimical China is to the interests of the US and its allies, I just want to cash in."

Well that's just a huge exaggeration. Pandering to China may seem like complicity, but just bitching at China - as many on the green side love to do - is utterly useless at making friends there at any level. Engagement plus some kind of well-conceived public relations campaign is probably the way to influence Chinese values.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what he thought about that recent action in Tibet? Remember that? Anyone? Anyone?

The Taipei Kid said...

I had my photo taken with Locke when he was in Taipei about a decade ago. Are you jealous?

Dixteel said...

Taiwan John,

I respect your point of view. But yes, I am one of those pan green that keep bitching about it, but I have a reason.

Don't you think Taiwan, for example, has engaged China in large scale for the past 20 or 30 years? We, Taiwan, practically jump start their economy and are still pouring in investment. And look how they treat us? At least China should leave us alone and give us international space, but China does the exact opposite.

Now Taiwan is in more danger than it was before Taiwan started the engagement and jump into the gigantic tar pit.

I grow up in this time and see this history unfold in front of my eyes. I am more inclined to agree with Michael that those stuff advocated by KMT and pro-China American are "panda-hugging bullshit."

Anonymous said...

Ah, but if only Andrew's opinion mattered.

Anonymous said...

His opinion mattered enough to the Taiwanese Americans of Washington State, but Gary Locke was obviously too important to listen.

STOP Ma said...

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RE: Update 2

That's the same relativistic bullshit that I hear my Chinese co-workers spew when talking about human rights / freedom, etc.

Locke's analogy is completely wrong. The internet is THE SAME in Europe as it is in Taiwan, as it is in any other free country that respects human rights. Name any modern western society that censors the internet. There is none.

This is not about "cultural relativism". This is about human rights and freedoms. Something the Chinese government abuses every day.
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Anonymous said...

Locke as a pick looks like a wolf in sheep's clothing and real disappointing from Obama. A pretty bad sign is Republicans are quite pleased.

Obama wanted the symbolism of picking a Republican and instead gets the symbolism of getting another Asian American into the cabinet.

While I'm generally for this kind of thing, issues come first, and this guy isn't a Democrat when it comes to trade issues.

So basically, the biggest trading partner with the US and the one we are most likely to ever have trade issues with, we pick someone who's known to be soft on China and big on expanding trade relations with China and from what people who have known him have said about him... proud i.e. blinded by his Chinese heritage.

Is this what people wanted when they voted Obama into office?

Thomas said...

Anon,

The only thing you said that bothers me is "A pretty bad sign is Republicans are quite pleased."

I don't think a partisan comment is necessary here. "Engaging" China, in this case meaning bending over backwards to blow the Panda, is a favorite preoccupation of politicians across the aisle, and Republicans have traditionally been more wary of China than Democrats on many issues.

My only question for you is this: Are Democrats not pleased by Locke?

Anonymous said...

On Locke's interview. He may have gone on to say something like, "and their definitions of human rights, freedom, democracy, liberty, censorship" are different from ours too."

Of course there is no way of finding out whether this is a deep, mysterious, pagodas and clouds cultural definition, or a state definition.

Taiwan John said...

Hey Dixteel,

I agree that Taiwanese have more reason to bitch at China than many others. I was actually referring to global actors like the US, EU etc.