- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 15, 2009

CHINA-WATCHING

Clark T. Randt Jr. is ending his term as the longest-serving U.S. ambassador to China with pride, hoping he is passing on a diplomatic prize to the Obama administration.

“I am pleased to be leaving with the U.S.-China relationship in good shape,” he said Wednesday in a farewell speech to the American Chamber of Commerce in Beijing. “People tell me it’s as good as it’s ever been, and I’m proud of that fact.”

Last year, the United States and China began celebrating the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations, as each country opened a new embassy in Washington and Beijing. Diplomats continued the commemorations this month to mark the anniversary of the formal exchange of ambassadors in 1979.

U.S. and Chinese leaders also extolled their economic ties, with bilateral trade soaring to more than $400 billion from only $2.5 billion 30 years ago. However, in the global financial crisis, China remains nervous because it holds about $1 trillion in U.S. debt.

Mr. Randt noted that President Bush was determined to boost bilateral relations during his two terms in office.

“Significantly improved U.S.-China relations will be one of the lasting legacies of President Bush,” he said.

Mr. Randt, a political appointee, has been serving as ambassador almost as long as Mr. Bush has been serving as president. He presented his diplomatic credentials in July 2001. In the 1980s, Mr. Randt served at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing as a junior diplomat and then joined a law firm in Hong Kong.

On Sunday, Mr. Randt hosted a reception for three former U.S. ambassadors, who all predicted that relations will remain basically unchanged under President Obama.

“I am optimistic that U.S.-China ties will continue to improve and remain steady in the years ahead,” said James Sasser, who served in Beijing from 1996 to 1999.

Stapleton Roy, ambassador from 1991 to 1996, and Winston Lord, ambassador from 1985 to 1989, shared his confidence.

Last week, Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte visited Beijing for the diplomatic anniversary. He noted that he first traveled to China as an aide to Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser to President Nixon, on an early mission to re-establish ties.

“The changes in our relationship since that time have been truly dramatic,” he said.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.