Out with the old, in with the new. Kind of. The White House will select outgoing Senator Max Baucus, 72, as its pick for US ambassador to China, officials have confirmed, after Gary Locke announced in November that he would step down from the position in early 2014.
The senior senator from Montana and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee announced in April that he would not seek re-election in 2014, and senate aides said that the move has been in the works for several days now.
The Washington Post reports:
Kenneth Lieberthal, the national security director for Asia during the Clinton presidency, said Baucus’s appointment could be a good choice since he understands trade issues well. The Obama administration was probably looking for “someone of stature, someone Chinese know has access to White House and understands politics at home,” he said.
“It’s important to nominate and extend a prominent figure like him,” said Michael Green, a former Asia adviser in the George W. Bush administration.
Xi Jinping meets with Max Baucus in Beijing on Oct. 13, 2010.
Washington Post also reasons that, while the decision to nominate Baucus took many people in Washington by surprise, it was likely because:
1. It (probably) increases the chances of Democrats holding onto his seat in 2014
2. It removes a credible critic of the Affordable Care Act from the scene [NY Times reports Baucus was a “conflicted architect of Mr. Obama’s health care law“]
3. Baucus has extensive experience when it comes to China, especially on trade issues
Locke announced resignation from his relatively short (yet memorable all the same) tenure as US ambassador to China so that he could rejoin his family in Seattle. Rumors had surfaced that Locke was involved in some extramarital romance in Beijing, but so far the allegations remain unfounded.
[Images via Weibo // Xinhua ]