China and the American Dream

Gary Locke, the current secretary of commerce, was nominated yesterday by President Obama to replace outgoing Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. Obama put the focus on Locke’s heritage, referring to him as the “grandson of a Chinese immigrant who went on to live the American dream.” For his part, Locke said he would be going to his family’s birthplace to be a “passionate advocate for America.” It is widely rumored that Huntsman will join the race to be the Republicans’ 2012 presidential nominee.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to members of the Asia Pacific Economic Forum yesterday, and she focused in part on the domestic. She said the administration is committed to “ensuring that economic engagement delivers results to the American people is a top domestic priority.” Clinton, without mentioning China directly, also maintained that seeking out closer trade ties with the region is at the top of the administration’s list, stressing that Washington would be looking for “a level playing field . . . rather than government manipulation.”

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner meanwhile wasn’t so circumspect. Appearing before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, Geithner was fighting for his budget—which he’d like to see increase from $1.24 billion to $3.36 billion. The money will go toward global lenders and programs overseas, an area that Geithner says is slipping from Washington's grip. And who will be there to fill the void? “Other countries like China are ready to fill any vacuum left by a receding America and we have to take a very careful look when we're going to cut back things like this to make sure we're not undermining our core interests,” said Geithner.

Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia Kurt Campbell spent some time yesterday apologizing to Japan’s foreign and defense ministers. Japanese media reported on Sunday that the head of the State Department’s Japan desk, Kevin Maher, called Okinawans “masters of manipulation and extortion.” Maher maintained that the reports were inaccurate, but Tokyo was not happy. John Roos, the U.S. ambassador to Japan, has also been apologizing profusely, and Maher, though he remains at State, has been replaced as the head of Japan affairs.

A few senators from northern states have been requesting that Washington put military-grade radar along the border with Canada to head off aircraft that might be used to transport drugs into the United States. Yesterday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano indicated that Washington was moving forward with the plans and that Homeland Security is working with the military on the issue.