A major Chinese government news service used a racist slur to describe the departing American ambassador in a mean-spirited editorial on Friday that drew widespread public condemnation in China.
The article — which called Gary Locke a "rotten banana," a guide dog for the blind, and a plague — reflected Chinese nationalists' acute loathing toward the first Chinese-American to have been Washington's top envoy to Beijing. "Banana" is a racial term for Asians identifying with Western values despite their skin color.
Locke won public applause when he was seen carrying his bag and flying economy class, but he drew criticism from Beijing, as his demeanor was an unwelcome contrast to Chinese officials' privileges and entitlements.
In his 2½ years in Beijing, Locke oversaw the defusing of two delicate diplomatic episodes when a powerful police chief fled to a U.S. Consulate and later when a persecuted blind activist sought shelter in the U.S. embassy. The Chinese public also credit him with making them realize the severity of China's foul air by posting the embassy's hourly readings of air quality.
Criticism of the editorial was swift. "I think it shows the unfriendliness and impoliteness by the Chinese government toward Gary Locke, and it is without the manners and dignity of a major power," legal scholar Hao Jinsong said. "It is unfitting of China's status as a diplomatic power. As a Chinese, I am very angry and feel ashamed of it."
"This article by China News Service is the most shameless I have ever seen — not one of them but the most shameless," the popular online commentator Yao Bo said.
Former Montana Sen. Max Baucus is succeeding Locke.