The U.S. Embassy posted a blog with photos of Gary Locke at the Beijing airport last weekend. It said: “Ambassador Gary Locke and his wife Mona are leaving China today.”
During his two-and-a-half years in China, Locke became a favorite example for Chinese to show how corrupt and extravagant Chinese politicians are these days. You can imagine how popular he must have been among Communist Party officials.
Locke praises the people
The day before leaving, Locke posted a farewell speech on the official website of the U.S. Embassy in which he praised Chinese citizens for their diligence and sacrifices. He described his 30 months’ experience in China as charming, gratifying, amazing, and a great exploration.
He wrote: “Ordinary Chinese people’s tireless effort and sacrifices make China’s recent development an extraordinary new chapter in China’s history.
“No matter where we were, we would be astonished by Chinese peoples’ vitality—your hard work, creativity, energy, and desire to fight for yourselves, your families, and your country.”
In his farewell speech, Locke also wrote: “I’m proud of my Chinese heritage and China’s contribution to the world’s culture for thousands of years. But I am also an American; I am proud of America being the land of freedom, hope, and opportunity, and bringing that great value to the whole world.”
Official media bid Locke good riddance
Locke, 64 years old, became the U.S. Ambassador to China on Aug. 1, 2011. Although his term in the mainland lasted only two-and-a-half years, he received the most public attention in China of any U.S. Ambassador, initially because he was the first U.S. Ambassador of Chinese decent to hold the position.
His daily demeanor really was in stark contrast to local officials’ extravagant lifestyles, and netizens were outspoken about this. Simple things like carrying his own backpack, taking economy class flights, and buying street food—his down-to-earth folksy style won him many fans in China.
Locke consequently became the poster-boy politician for disgruntled citizens grappling for any chance to have an impact on the political system. This of course irritated Chinese officials, so Locke was frequently attacked in the Chinese media. One goodbye editorial even threw in a school-yard racial slur for good measure, trying to insult him by referring to him as a “banana”—yellow on the outside and white on the inside.
Locke’s departing photos and blog circulated widely this week across the Chinese Internet, and many netizens sent him their good wishes.