Wednesday May 27, 2020


January 30, 2014

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a nomination hearing for Senator Max Baucus for the role of ambassador to China. Ambassador Gary Locke, who has served as U.S. ambassador since 2011, announced in November that he would be leaving his post in early 2014. Senator Baucus was named as President Obama’s likely choice of replacement shortly thereafter. The nomination process is expected to continue forward smoothly.

Baucus is one of the highest-ranking Senators and serves as chairman of the important Senate Finance Committee. The Montana Senator is not new to China policy. He has visited the country on several occasions, worked to increase trade relations with China, and has met with China experts over the years to stay informed. According to one of the experts who met with Baucus in the past, “There was no particular legislation on the table at the time related to China, it was more just that, as [Senator Baucus] told us, ‘I want to get to know China’”

During his testimony, Baucus explained how a trip around the world he took during his college days introduced him to China and inspired him to take a role in international relations. He said, “I realized how people across the globe were interconnected. And I saw the vital role America plays as a leader on the world stage. I returned to the States with a focus and commitment to a career where I could improve the lives of my fellow Montanans and all Americans.”

He emphasized his background in economic relations and the work he has done in the past to improve U.S.-China trade relations, saying “I have worked through economic diplomacy to strengthen ties between the United States and China. I look forward to continuing that work to build a stronger, more equitable economic relationship between our countries.”

In addition to working to further develop economic ties with China, Baucus stated that as ambassador he would work with China as it grows encourage it to take responsible action as a leader on the world stage.

He emphasized the importance of cooperation and building a strong foundation for this important bilateral relationship: “Leaders from both sides have recognized that we have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict. I believe that as well, and I see many areas of our relationship where cooperation is not only possible, but vital.”

After his testimony, Baucus responded to questions and concerns from committee members. While mostly positive, there were a couple tougher questions.

Senator John McCain warned Baucus that he needed to be aware that China’s Air Defense Identification Zone “is a matter of a rising threat or challenge to peace and security in Asia because of the profound belief in Chinese leadership that China will regain the dominant role.” He further cautioned Baucus not to overlook the human rights and other abuses when dealing with China.

While acknowledging the truth to some of the Senator’s concerns, Baucus also replied that “the overarching goal here is for us as a country, I think, to engage China with eyes wide open to try to find common ground”

Baucus responded similarly to a question posed by Florida Senator Marco Rubio. When Rubio asked if Senator Baucus would take actions, such as attending service at an unregistered church in China, as a display of defiance to certain China policies, Baucus replied, “The goal here is to be effective. I will take actions which I hope accomplish that objective.”

These responses indicate a practical approach to the ambassador that will serve Baucus well. He is aware of the challenges that come with such a complex relationship, noting that he needs to be “’fair but firm’ with China, while ‘engaging in a constructive conversation.’”

Baucus also has a keen sense of the importance of this bilateral relationship. He said, “The U.S.-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. It will shape global affairs for generations to come. We must get it right.” Based on his testimony, it is evident that Senator Baucus will do everything in his power to do just that – get it right.

For more information Senator Baucus’ nomination, see the following news articles:

Senate Foreign Relations Committee – “Testimony of Max Baucus, Ambassador-Designate to China

Senate Foreign Relations Committee – “Chairman Menendez’s Opening Remarks at Nomination Hearings, Including for Senator Max Baucus to be US Ambassador to China

Christian Science Monitor – “What Max Baucus would bring to post of China ambassador

Politico – “Max Baucus nomination set to move forward

New York Times – “McCain Calls China a ‘Rising Threat’ in Baucus Confirmation Hearing

Washington Post – “Baucus pledges to press China on security issues, trade in hearing on ambassador post

China Daily – “Nominee for ambassador vows to expand China relations

For Chinese language news on this topic, see the sources below:

Xinhua (新华网) – “美驻华大使提名人鲍卡斯承诺将致力于加强中美关系

Duowei News (多维新闻) – “鲍卡斯:与中国建立更公平的经济关系

China Daily (中国日报网) – “鲍卡斯接任美国驻华大使三大后果

The New York Times – 奥巴马拟定下一任驻华大使人选

Compiled and edited by Ariane Rosen