China said Thursday it welcomes the nomination of Commerce Secretary Gary Locke as the next U.S. ambassador here.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Locke would replace outgoing ambassador Jon Huntsman, who leaves in April to explore a presidential bid. Locke would be the first Chinese-American to take up the post of top China envoy.
"China-U.S. relations are highly important. We hope the new U.S. ambassador to China will play a positive role in promoting greater development in bilateral relations," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told a news conference.
As ambassador, Locke will be tasked with managing the U.S. relationship with a country President Obama has frequently cited as America's chief economic rival.
Locke, 61, has long experience in China and is well versed in the Chinese trade policies that have frustrated American businesses trying to sell their products in the huge and growing Asian power.
Administration officials, including Locke, have pushed China to reform policies that limit the ability of American companies to export to China, and have strongly condemned Chinese efforts to undervalue its currency in order to make its goods cheaper.
Before he was commerce secretary, Locke worked on China issues for a Seattle-based law firm, which he joined after declining to seek a third term as Washington state's governor.
Locke was the country's first Chinese-American governor. Both his father and grandfather were born in southern China.