As a two-term governor of the US state of Washington from 1997 to 2005 and United States secretary of commerce from 2009 to 2011, Gary Locke fostered economic relations between his state and China. Then, as US ambassador to China from 2011 to 2014, Locke worked to open markets for US-made goods and services.
Since leaving public office, Locke has remained steadfastly committed to facilitating cross-Pacific business and trade. As legal counsel for the Seattle-based international law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, Locke currently consults with clients on issues regarding international trade, regulatory issues and investment policies.
What do you feel has been China’s biggest achievement over the past five years?
The growing prosperity of the Chinese people and the growing number of Chinese who are middle class. China now perhaps is the world’s most modern civilization and yet the oldest — the transformation of China has just been unbelievable.
What three words would you use to describe China today?
I would say modern, ancient and energetic. China is on the move.
What is the biggest challenge China faces, and how do you feel the country can go about overcoming it?
The biggest challenge is still closing the gap between the poor who live in the countryside and the growing middle class of the cities, ensuring that there is economic prosperity for its entire people. Another big challenge is providing care for the growing number of elderly in China. China is already working on moving more people from the countryside to urban areas. It has been done very carefully.
I think it is important for China to open its markets, allowing foreign companies to invest in the country and to create jobs for the Chinese people.
What are your expectations for the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China?
A lot of people are wondering what will happen in terms of who will be on the Standing Committee and what economic policies the congress will establish — whether the reform effort will continue and what will be the areas of emphasis, as well as the pace or speed of reform.
What is your impression of President Xi Jinping?
President Xi Jinping has done an excellent job as president. He has great presence and visibility around the world. The Belt and Road Initiative (Xi’s proposal for a trade and infrastructure network boosting connectivity between Asia, Europe and Africa) is receiving positive reviews around the world, especially in those undeveloped countries that will benefit. He is doing very well in talking about the needs of global cooperation and avoiding protectionism. He has done much to help bring stability and prosperity to the people of China.
How do you view China’s role in today’s world? Do you believe that some of China’s experiences or practices could be used to solve pressing global problems?
China is a very important country. All the different issues confronting the world — from climate change to fighting diseases, fighting terrorism, to ensuring peace and stability — require the active role of China.
How do you view China’s longer-term future?
China will continue to grow economically and prosper and it will continue to modernize. It is moving away from low-cost, low-wage manufacturing of goods to be exported around the world, to an economy that is more innovation and technology based.
What is the most memorable experience or moment you have had in China, or related to China?
Two moments: The first is taking our children and family to travel throughout China, to discover the China of their ancestors by visiting places outside the cities of Beijing and Shanghai. That was a great experience for the children and family that we will never forget. The second one was actually visiting the family village to see where my father, my grandfather and ancestors were born.
What is your expectation for the US-China relationship in the next five years?
This is a very delicate and sensitive time for the US-China relationship. Hopefully, President (Donald) Trump will follow the policies of past presidents, Democrats and Republicans, since (former president Richard) Nixon breathed life into the US-China relationship (with his historic 1972 visit to China).
There are issues. There are areas of differences. But common interests outweigh the areas of disagreement. The American people and Chinese people have benefited from the growing economic, political and cultural ties between our two countries. The world will benefit from a strong US-China relationship.