Ambassador Locke's remarks at Xinjiang University
Gary F. Locke
United States Ambassador to China
April 25, 2013
AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Thank you very much, Party Secretary Li, for the introduction and for the great hospitality that you and President Tashpolat have extended to me this morning. Thank you very much.
I also want to thank Deputy Director General of the Foreign Affairs Office, Mr. Song, for all the great hospitality and all the arrangements for our very first visit to Xinjiang.
But to the students and the staff and the faculty and all of those attending here this morning: “Ni Hao” and “As-salaam-Alaikum”.
It’s really a pleasure to be here at this great institution of learning and to have in front of me here just a sample of the future leaders of China in business, in government, in the sciences, the arts, and in academia.
I’m here as part of an official visit. It’s the first official visit of an Ambassador from the United States in more than 20 years, and I come with a trade delegation focusing on energy, clean energy, efficiency in energy, as well as transportation, especially the rail sector. We’re here because we want Xinjiang to fully realize its great potential in terms of its mineral resources, but we also want to focus on the human resources, the people of Xinjiang as well, and that’s why we’re here at this university.
For centuries Xinjiang has served as a commercial and cultural center since the Silk Road of ancient times, a vibrant link between the East and West, and this region presents boundless opportunities for further cooperation and engagement between the United States and China.
I want to make sure that we leave plenty of time for any questions that you might have, but I’ve often been asked what makes America so special, so great? I really believe that the secret to our success is the diversity of our people and of our different cultures. So I’d like to tell you really just a little bit about my family history because I think the story of our family from China to the United States is really the story of America.
My grandfather actually came to the United States in the late 1800s and worked as a servant for a family in the state capital close to Seattle, Washington, on the Pacific Ocean. I say on the Pacific, because many people think of the State of Washington as associated with Washington, DC. Washington, DC is on the Atlantic Ocean; Washington State is on the Pacific Ocean.
My grandfather swept floors and washed dishes in exchange for English lessons. He came to the United States as a teenager, and eventually he returned to China, where he got married, where my aunts and uncles including my father was born. As was the custom, my grandfather came back to the United States, worked, and supported the family by sending money back to Guangdong Province.
Eventually he went back to Guangdong Province and brought my dad and my aunts and uncles to the United States, so my father came to the United States also as a teenager. He then joined the United States Army just before the outbreak of World War II, and after the war was over he went back to China, met my mom in Hong Kong where they got married, and then brought my mom to the United States.
When I was growing up, I never thought I’d enter into government service. I actually thought that I might be a teacher or I might be an urban planner, and because I love the outdoors, I actually thought I would be a forest ranger and be a forester.
My parents wanted me to study medicine or engineering, but I decided I wanted to pursue a degree in law.
From law I got involved in politics, and eventually I was elected the Governor of the State of Washington -- the first Asian-American Governor on the mainland United States; the first Chinese-American Governor in the history of the United States.
When I was sworn in as the Governor of the State of Washington I moved into the Governor’s residence, or what we call the Governor’s mansion, which was literally one mile from the house where my grandfather had served as a servant. During my inauguration I joked that it took our family 100 years to travel one mile -- from the house where my grandfather was a servant to the house where the Governor of the State of Washington lived.
But our family story is really the story of hundreds of millions of Americans from all around the world who came to the United States in pursuit of freedom and in pursuit of opportunity.
America is really a land of immigrants, whether first generation or fourth generation, whether our ancestors came from China or Ireland or France or Germany or Japan or Brazil. America is a land of immigrants who came to that country in pursuit of freedom and opportunity.
The Chinese first came to the United States in the mid 1800s to help finish the American Transcontinental Railroad. They then stayed to work in the gold mines, the lumber camps, and actually served as the merchants in some of the great cities of the West Coast, from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Seattle, and of course they settled in cities like New York.
Wave after wave of immigrants from around the world have contributed to the prosperity of America and brought new ideas, new customs, and new cultures that have constantly made America fresh and young.
Not all immigrant groups have been welcomed with open arms, and America has a history of discrimination and struggle. We don’t ever profess to be perfect, but we’re constantly trying to improve ourselves. Now people of all different ethnic groups occupy the highest positions in government, in business, in finance, in academia, the arts and culture. Of course we elected the very first African-American President in the history of the United States, an event that I wasn’t sure that I would ever see before I died.
So as we now celebrate our diversity, we need to celebrate the connections of diverse people all around the world. Because diversity of ideas, diversities of language, diversities of culture from China to the United States to Eastern Europe to Africa, that is going to be the source of innovation and creativity in the years ahead. That’s why our two peoples, the Chinese people and the American people, must understand each other and we have to have more exchanges among our government leaders, our business leaders, and our students.
I’m proud of the great contributions that China has made to world civilization over thousands of years. The invention of paper, the compass, the printing press, the clock. And I’m greatly proud of the contributions of America in terms of medicine and science and technology and our values of freedom and openness. The world is counting on leadership from both the United States and China joining together to solve some of the toughest problems facing the entire globe, from climate change to diseases, to nuclear proliferation, to famine. The world is looking for that leadership from China and the United States. And if we are to tackle some of these pressing issues we first have to have greater understanding among our peoples.
So we hope that you will visit the United States as a tourist or for further studies, and we want to encourage more American students and more Americans in general to visit China.
We want you to succeed. We want you to help China grow and prosper. We want you to help solve the pressing problems that the world faces today.
Thank you very much for having me here, and I look forward to answering any questions that you might have. Thank you.
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United States Ambassador to China
Ambassador Locke Answers Students’ Questions
April 25, 2013
STUDENT: [Through Interpreter]. Honorable Ambassador, I’m from the Journalism School at Xinjiang University. My question is—the title of your speech today is building a future together, China and the U.S., so in your opinion what specific measures should be taken to further the development of Sino-U.S. relations? And in which areas can Xinjiang, China and the United States expand cooperation?
AMBASSADOR LOCKE: I think that the opportunities for collaboration are unlimited. We’re here obviously to help promote collaboration in the energy fields. Xinjiang has enormous mineral resources. Not all of it is fully developed. So we’re here to help the Chinese government and the Chinese companies realize the great potential that they have.
We also want to help Xinjiang develop alternative and cleaner sources of energy, whether it’s solar or wind or natural gas. And also to help move your agricultural products as well as your coal products from Xinjiang to other parts of the world. So we’re also focusing on rail transportation.
But there are so many areas for cooperation, whether it’s in medicine, whether it’s in fighting climate change, whether it’s in agriculture and helping your farmers become more proficient and more productive so that you can feed the people; to cooperation on arts and culture. We have so much that we can learn from each other.
STUDENT: [Through Interpreter]. Honorable Mr. Ambassador, I’m from the School of Physical Science. Judging from your experience, you are definitely very successful. I once read an article about your experience and it’s very popular, and your experience is also a kind of encouragement for us, both your hard work experience and your low profile work style, will have meaning for us. So do you have any suggestions for us, university students?
AMBASSADOR LOCKE: I have to tell you, that I was not a very good student. I actually spent more time building a darkroom when I was in college than I actually spent on my studies. That’s a darkroom where you would develop film before we actually had digital cameras.
But actually my success has always been [hard earned]—-I’m not as fast as many of my college colleagues, so I had to spend a lot more time doing my homework. I could never do well in tests because by the time I finished reading the questions time had expired. [Laughter].
I think the key to success, especially in college, is just working as hard as you can. And if there’s one bit of advice I would give to college students regardless of your major, it’s to take a broad range of courses, especially outside your field. Don’t be in such a hurry to specialize in a particular area.
You’re attending one of the great universities in China and you have great professors and instructors here. Take advantage of their excellence and their knowledge.
When I was going to college we actually had a lot of students who were planning on going to medical school. Yes, they had to take the necessary science, chemistry, biology courses, but many of them were actually music majors or French majors, and many students who were planning on going into law were actually science majors. So take advantage of the great professors and courses that you have here to sample different fields. Who knows, you may find a new interest.
Perhaps even more important is not the memorization of facts and figures, but developing your ability to analyze and to think critically and to express yourself, because the things that you learn today you’ll probably forget in about five or ten years. So the question is, has college really prepared you to think, to adapt and to react to the changing technology and the changing circumstances that the world will present to you 15 or 20 years from now?
STUDENT: [Through Interpreter]. I would like to ask you for more suggestions for us university students, as you are such an inspiring figure.
AMBASSADOR LOCKE: First I would encourage you to try and travel as much as you can, to discover China and discover the world. I have to say when I was in college I had hardly traveled anywhere outside of, even had hardly traveled to many parts of the United States. And then after I graduated from college I really wished I had taken a little bit of time off before jumping into either graduate school or even after graduating from graduate school, getting a law degree, waiting a little bit before actually starting work and maybe volunteering and helping out in other parts of the world or in the United States.
Once you start working it’s going to be very very difficult to take time off, and when you start raising a family it’s very difficult to really explore. With the low cost of travel these days and with the ability to visit the United States, it’s very easy to get a visa to go to the United States now and the wait times for an appointment have dropped from what used to be 100 days now to only two to four days. So if you can, try to discover China, discover Xinjiang, discover the world if you can.
STUDENT: Good morning Honorable Mr. Ambassador. [I’m a] graduate student from the Foreign Language College.
First of all, thank you for an amazing lecture. It’s known that Xinjiang is a very beautiful and mysterious place. This is your first visit to Xinjiang, so what is your impression of Xinjiang? Thank you.
AMBASSADOR LOCKE: Thank you very much. Your English is very very good.
STUDENT: Thank you. [Applause].
AMBASSADOR LOCKE: I have to tell you, I really didn’t know what to expect when I came to Xinjiang, but as I flew in I could see the plains and the mountains and it reminded me very much of the Western part of the United States of America where I’m from. The land, the mountains, the plains, are very, very similar.
I’m very, very struck by the warm weather and the climate here. It’s a little bit warmer for my taste. I like cool weather. I come from Seattle, Washington, where it rains a lot and where the temperatures are much cooler. But a couple of things that I was struck by, the energy within the cities of Urumqi and elsewhere, as we drove in from the airport—I was struck by all the construction and the activity. And as I put my belongings [down], as I checked into the hotel, I went up to the hotel room on the eighth floor and looked out and just watched the city below for quite some time. I was very, very impressed by the energy, the hustle and bustle, the green spaces, the tree lined boulevards and the people walking and all the cars and the buses that were moving about. There’s a sense of energy here.
We had an opportunity to visit the Xinjiang Museum, and I have to say that I never knew of so many different minority groups and different ethnic groups that are here in Xinjiang. Yes, I heard that Xinjiang has a very large Uyghur population, but I never knew of the Tartars or the Russians and so many even Caucasian groups that are part of the history and that live in Xinjiang.
Tomorrow we’ll be going to Kashgar and I’m looking forward to that visit.
Let me close by just saying how pleased I am to be in front of you, the future of Xinjiang, the future of China. I hope that many of you will, after you get your degrees, consider advanced degrees and further study in the United States. We very much welcome your participation and education in the United States and, after obtaining your degree, either staying in the United States or coming back here to provide leadership to China and Xinjiang—and helping Xinjiang and China reach its fullest potential. You truly are the future of China and indeed the world and we need more partnerships between the young people of China and the young people of America, because the world is counting on leadership from China and the United States, working together to solve not just the problems of China or the United States, but indeed the problems of the world.
Our countries -- China cannot solve some of these issues and problems on its own, nor can America. Only by joining together.
Thank you very much and best wishes to all of you. Thank you.