President Obama will nominate Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as the next U.S. ambassador to China, senior administration officials said late Monday, continuing a game of musical chairs that has shuffled top administration officials at the start of the second half of Obama's term.A formal announcement is planned for Tuesday in the Diplomatic Reception Room.
The Beijing vacancy was created when Ambassador Jon Huntsman resigned his post, making it clear in the process that he is weighing a bid to challenge Obama for the presidency in 2012. Huntsman, a Republican, was considered a strong ambassador in one of the most strategically important capitals in the world, with his mix of fluency in Chinese and extensive knowledge about the region. He plans to depart Beijing in April.
Although Locke has not emerged as a star in the Obama orbit, he is Chinese American and well-regarded in the Chinese business community. He was Obama's third choice for the Commerce position, after the nomination of Bill Richardson was pulled over ethics concerns and Senator Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) withdrew over policy disagreements.