US Ambassador to China Gary Locke paid a visit last week to his ancestral village in Guangdong, where he laid a photograph of his father, who died in January, in the family shrine. Reactions to the visit reaffirmed Locke’s transition from “fake foreign devil” to widely admired icon of official humility. NPR’s Louisa Lim reports on the visit, and on Locke’s unlikely online celebrity:
“It was completely unexpected, and not by design,” Locke told the journalists. “I’m somewhat overwhelmed by the microblogging that takes place in China, and the smartphones and all the people that want to take photos of myself and my family ….”
Locke has shot to fame not for his meetings with top Chinese officials but for his ordinariness. He carries his own backpack, travels in economy class and buys coffee with discount vouchers.
Such low-key behavior highlights the luxurious lifestyles of some Chinese officials, so much so that one party-controlled newspaper published an editorial on its website saying Locke’s posting was a neocolonialist plot “to strengthen pro-U.S. forces in China.” He shrugged this off.
But he admitted that being in the spotlight does have its advantages.
“If anything, the added attention, greater visibility I’ve been able to generate, if that can open doors, and bridge and expose more Chinese to American values, the American way of life, then that’s great,” he said.
See also ‘Why China Seems so Fascinated by US Ambassador Gary Locke‘, on CDT.