How do the Chinese View Baucus Ambassador Nomination?

Aaron Flint posted on December 24, 2013 11:06 :: 4867 Views

As Montanans, we’ve all been asking the question as to how the nomination of Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) as US ambassador to China will impact Montana politics.  As Americans, a greater question is how this nomination will impact our relations with China, and how the Chinese are viewing this nomination. 

The news of a dirty backroom deal by Harry Reid to try and appoint the next US Senator from Montana aside, from a Montana perspective it is good news to have an elected official from the Big Sky state become the next amdassador to China.  Agriculture in particular could benefit from the connections.  Given the presence of several ambassadors at Sen. Baucus’ economic development summit in Butte, Montana earlier this year- it’s also clear Sen. Baucus has demonstrated an ability to work with these diplomats. (If not the mere draw of his US Senate Finance Committee post at the time)

But how are the Chinese and foreign policy wonks viewing the nomination? 

Below is a collection of viewpoints from the web (please send more as you find them) that I neither endorse or refute. I just happen to find them interesting. 

The Want China Times: Baucus nomination as US ambassador to China gets mixed response

“It’s a problem when the militaries in both countries view each other as their largest potential big-power adversary,” David Lampton, director of China studies at John Hopkins University in Baltimore, said in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor. Lampton added that a number of recent incidents, including a near-collision of vessels in the South China Sea earlier this month, cannot lead to the conclusion that the security relationship between the two countries “is going in a comforting direction.”

The New York Times said Baucus will have a difficult task given his lack of high-level engagement with Beijing and the leadership void left by the departures of former Treasury secretary Timothy Geithner, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former national security adviser Tom Donilon.

Unlike previous US ambassadors to China in 24 of the past 32 years, Baucus cannot speak Mandarin, though he is regarded as a familiar figure in Beijing as he has been involved in numerous trade delegations.

This answers the question I posed to a caller to our statewide radio talk show, Voices of Montana, last week. Me: “Does Senator Baucus speak Chinese?” Caller: “Heck, he barely speaks English.”

In other news- apparently Sen. Baucus already has a Chinese name, as The Wall Street Journal reports:

Chinese social media users wonder whether the White House’s new choice for ambassador to China will survive in Beijing. Not politically, but physically.

Still another user suggested Mr. Baucus should be known in Chinese as Ambassador Bao Kesi  (包咳死). The last two characters, when combined, mean “cough to death.”

If you read Patrick Smith’s column for The Fiscal Times, you may wonder if Sen. Baucus will have trouble with chopsticks:

There are also several reasons to judge Baucus the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time even though his will almost certainly be a cake-walk confirmation in the Senate early next year.

Baucus, while not without accomplishment, is ill-equipped for the task. The Chinese are certain to view his arrival as evidence of an almost willful refusal in Washington to take a relationship amid a profound rebalancing seriously.   

Baucus gets Beijing as a reward for long and loyal service to Democratic administrations, and specifically for his key support for Obama’s biggest projects. As with Secretary of State Kerry, Obama chose a senator who is sure to win collegial approval and avert ideological and political skirmishes.

The Epoch Times: Sizing Up Ambassador Baucus

The appointment has its associated concerns — putting aside jokes about the 72-year-old senator’s health in Beijing’s smoggy air, Sen. Baucus, who has never served on a committee that deals with foreign policy or national security, is no career diplomat.

International Business TimesChina Reacts: Sen. Max Baucus To Be Nominated As Ambassador To China

Many also see the “uncontroversial and unsexy” Baucus nomination, as described by Foreign Policy, as a fresh take on leadership in Beijing.

“Someone without a focus on security, and more on trade, is something that will keep Beijing calm,” one user wrote, noting China’s ongoing territorial disputes with U.S. ally Japan. “It’s an interesting [pick] in the sense that security competition with China is heating up and he doesn’t have much of a record [on security issues],” Dan Blumenthal, director of Asian studies at the American Enterprise Institute, said in the Foreign Policy piece.

Back at home…

The Washington Times: Montana Dems fret about Baucus seat as WH pulls ‘backroom deal’ to save

“The seat has been in one person’s hands since 1978,” said Bob Brigham, senior adviser for former Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination. “We don’t want Washington, D.C., to use backroom deals to force someone on us. Let the people decide who should fill this seat.”

University of Montana political science professor Robert Saldin said Democrats should be careful what they wish for.

“I do think it’s a double-edged sword if [Mr. Walsh] gets appointed,” said Mr. Saldin. “Everyone who says this is a game-changer is off base. I’m kind of skeptical that this is such a great thing for Walsh, and I’m skeptical of the notion that this upends the dynamic of the campaign.”

In fairness to the Walsh campaign, Brigham previously urged Baucus to step down early so Gov. Bullock could do just that- appoint Walsh to the Senate seat early.  However, Brigham since that time began urging Bohlinger to run- reflecting what I sense is a broader behind the scenes concern among Montana Democrats that the Walsh campaign may not be up to the task, and it is time for someone like Bohlinger to step up.

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Mel Frost

Tuesday, December 24, 2013 11:46 PM

The air quality in China alone will be enough to put Max out of action! Compared to Montana, he should turn the job down for health reasons alone; but, he might get better care over there, eh?..

With the “change” in the stature and status of America, due to this worthless admin, he will have his plate full just covering up all those piles of stink! He is nothing but the paid mouth piece of our fearless leader/pres – he has very little say for himself. The ag angle may prove to be his best suit, as long as he doesn’t try and sell our state to them, just the items grown here.

These are dangerous times we walk in now – I can only pray that he has enough sense to listen to some “old China hands” when it comes to figuring out just what to do, and when.

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