China's official media notes Ambassador Baucus' challenges

BEIJING, Feb. 7 (UPI) -- Max Baucus is welcome as the new U.S. ambassador in Beijing but should shed his "colored glasses" on China's economy, official Chinese media said Friday.

The official Xinhua News Agency carried two commentaries on the same day to explain the challenges the Montana senator will face as the new ambassador, an appointment that was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate Thursday.


Baucus will succeed Gary Locke, who is stepping down as U.S. ambassador to China to rejoin his family in Seattle.

In welcoming Baucus' appointment, Xinhua noted his expertise on China, especially on economic and trade issues he has handled as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

This experience and Baucus' more than a half-dozen trips to China make him "a wise choice for Washington to deal with the world's second largest and most vibrant economy," one article said.

"His nomination and confirmation might testify to the U.S. eagerness to tap the huge trade and investment opportunities in China, the fastest growing major economy in the world," the other article said.

Both articles said, however, that Baucus has a "somewhat mixed" record.


While the senator's support for China's entry into the World Trade Organization proved to be an important development in China's transformation, he has also supported legislative punishment against China for the so-called manipulation of exchange rates, they said.

Many U.S. experts have said China is keeping its currency exchange rates artificially low against other currencies to drive up exports and run huge trade surpluses against major importers such as the United States. China has denied such charges.

"Therefore, the first thing Baucus could do when he arrives in Beijing is to pick off his colored glasses on China's economy and learn more about the complexity of bilateral relations," one article said. "China welcomes the coming of Baucus, just as the world welcomes a sound development of Beijing-Washington ties."

Baucus will be coming to Beijing at a time when relations between the United States and China "are often disturbed by political squabbles over the South China Sea," one commentary said.

"Beijing has been annoyed by the U.S. meddling in its territorial disputes with Japan and some Southeast Asian countries."

The Xinhua articles said Washington's backing has emboldened countries like Japan and the Philippines to take a series of provocative moves.

"This means the new job in Beijing is no picnic for Baucus," one commentary said.


Baucus' appointment could also be a good sign, the other article said.

China and the United States, as major trade partners, "share many crucial economic interests" and the more they benefit from each other's development, the easier it would be to "manage their tricky disputes in other areas," it said.

During his Senate confirmation hearing, Baucus said he would urge Beijing to follow international law and norms on maritime issues "including by clarifying the international legal basis for its claims."

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