- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

LOCKE ON CHINA

President Obama is widely expected to appoint Commerce Secretary Gary F. Lockeas the first Chinese-American ambassador to China to replace Jon Huntsman, who is retiring next month to consider running for the Republican presidential nomination.

Mr. Locke, 61, has been Commerce secretary since 2009 and, like Mr. Huntsman, is a former governor. Mr. Locke, a Democrat, served two terms as governor of Washington state. Mr. Huntsman resigned from his second term as governor of Utah to accept the ambassadorial nomination to Beijing.

Unlike Mr. Huntsman, who is fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Mr. Locke does not speak the official language. He is conversant in a dialect called Taishan, spoken in parts of southern China.

The selection of Mr. Locke, the son of Chinese immigrants, set some reporters speculating that Mr. Obama made the decision based on race.

“Is it more efficacious to have an ambassador who looks Chinese, like Mr. Locke, or one who speaks Chinese, like the current incumbent Jon Huntsman … ?” Peter Ford asked on his blog Tuesday at the Christian Science Monitor.

Other reporters noted that the administration is toying with Mr. Huntsman’s presidential ambitions by praising him for his work for the liberal Democratic president.

White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley applauded Mr. Huntsman for his “support of the president … and closeness in which he worked with the president.”

“And I’m sure he’ll hear about that in the [Republican] primaries,” Mr. Daley added Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Adam Sorensen of Time magazine called that praise a “death hug.”

BANKING FAILURE

The former European Union ambassador in Washington upbraided European bankers this week for reckless speculation that led to economic collapse in his native Ireland.

John Bruton also accused today’s European leaders of failing to have the “intellectual self-confidence” displayed by an earlier generation of statesmen who created the forerunners of the EU in the 1950s.

“From 2000 on, British, German, Belgian, French banks and banks of other EU countries lent irresponsibly to the Irish banks in the hope that they, too, could profit from … the Irish construction bubble,” Mr. Bruton said in a speech Monday at the London School of Economics.

“They were supervised by their home central banks and by the [European Central Bank] … which seemingly raised no objection to this lending.”

He accused the central bank of a “major failure” of supervision.

The crash hit Ireland in 2009. By the second quarter of 2010, home prices had fallen by 35 percent, and the Celtic Tiger of the boom years of 2001 to 2007 was in deep recession.

Many analysts are unfairly blaming the Irish for the economic decline, Mr. Bruton said.

“Irish taxpayers are now helping to stabilize the situation of European banks and of the European banking system,” he said.

“There is a tendency in some quarters to glide over that fact and to present it as a purely Irish problem with purely Irish responsibility.”

He also said European leaders “must rediscover” the self-confidence of the founders of EU institutions and develop a “true … European patriotism.”

Mr. Bruton, ambassador in Washington from 2004 to 2009, served as Irish prime minister from 1994 to 1997. He is a member of the Fine Gael party, which promotes fiscal restraint and free enterprise.

• Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297 or e-mail jmorrison@washington times.com.

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