WASHINGTON, March 9 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday formally nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to be the next U.S. Ambassador to China, saying that no one is better qualified for the diplomatic post than Locke.
"Our relationship with China is one of the most critical of the 21st century," Obama said at a joint White House appearance with Locke and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Obama said the administration has worked hard over the past two years to build a relationship with China which serves the national interests of the United States, addresses global security issues and expands opportunities for American companies and American workers.
"Continuing cooperation between our two countries would be good for America, it would be good for China and it would be good for the world," he said.
"As the grandson of a Chinese immigrant who went on to live the American dream, Gary is the right person to continue this cooperation," Obama said. "I know he would bring the same skills and experience he brought to commerce secretary to this new position that he is about to embark on."
"I wish you all the best luck in Beijing," Obama said to Locke after the nomination.
Thanking the president for the nomination, Locke said he was " deeply humbled and honored" to be chosen as the next U.S. ambassador to China.
"I'm eager to assume this new position," he said.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the 61-year-old Locke would succeed Jon Huntsman, who is expected to end his tenure at the end of April. He would also be the first Chinese American to hold the post.
Born into an immigrant family on Jan. 21, 1950, Locke spent his first six years in Seattle's Yesler Terrace, a public housing project for families of World War II veterans. He worked in his father's grocery store, became an Eagle Scout and graduated with honors from Seattle's Franklin High School in 1968. Through a combination of part-time jobs, financial aid and scholarships, Locke attended Yale University, earning a bachelor's degree in political science in 1972.
After receiving his law degree from Boston University in 1975, he worked for several years as a deputy prosecutor in King County, prosecuting felony crimes. In 1982, Locke was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives, where he served on the House Judiciary and Appropriations committees, with his final five years spent as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Locke was elected Washington's 21st governor on Nov. 5, 1996, making him the first Chinese-American governor in U.S. history. On Nov. 7, 2000, Locke, a Democrat, was re-elected to a second term.
President Obama nominated Locke as commerce secretary in February 2009, and he was sworn in on May 1 the same year.
Locke and his wife, Mona Lee Locke, a former reporter for the NBC affiliate KING 5 television in Seattle, were married on Oct. 15, 1994. The Lockes have three children -- Emily, born in March 1997, Dylan, born in March 1999 and Madeline, born in November 2004.