OCTOBER 29, 1997
Phil Ponce talks with Governor Locke, (D) Washington, and his wife, Mona Lee Locke about his recent visit to China.
PHIL PONCE: Last fall voters in Washington State elected the nation's first Chinese-American governor and earlier this month Governor Gary Locke went on a 12-day Asia mission. He not only visited tourist sites, such as the Great Wall, but used his trip as an opportunity to boost cultural and business ties to China. He made a sales pitch for the Seattle-based Boeing Corporation, and he also visited a Chinese store to promote Washington State's other well-known export, apples. And in an hour-long meeting with China's president, Jiang Zemin, Locke also reportedly brought up the hot-button issue of human rights. Locke's entourage included several state officials and dozens of business leaders. The last stop on Locke's trip was a personal pilgrimage to his ancestral home, a tiny, remote village called Jilong in Southeastern China.
The governor got a hero's welcome. For miles, thousands of Chinese school children from nearby towns lined the gravel road leading to Jilong to greet the governor and his family. Forty-seven year old Gary Locke and his wife, Mona Lee Locke, are first-generation Americans. Both Locke's election and his visit fascinated the Chinese and were cited in press reports as examples of their nation's growing strength. Nearly 100 reporters, including about a dozen Americans, chronicled the trip. As if to underscore the significance of the visit, Jilong got a new road, new lights, and its first toilet ever in preparation for Locke's visit. The governor and his wife were accompanied by his 80-year-old father and 71-year-old mother for their first visit back home in 50 years. Locke bowed his head in prayer before a shrine in the family home.
SPOKESPERSON: After you had paid respect--will make sure that you will go back to--
PHIL PONCE: The Lockes were honored with a dragon dance, and they visited an ancestral grave site, where a whole roasted pig was presented as an offering. And before they left, they gathered for a family photograph.
PHIL PONCE: Governor and Mrs. Locke join us now. They're in Washington for the U.S.-China summit. And welcome both. Governor Locke, why do you think there was such interest in you in China?
GOV. GARY LOCKE, (D) Washington: Well, I'm the first Chinese-American governor ever in the history of the United States and the first Asian-American governor elected to a mainland state, but I think it really represents that realization of hope and opportunity that America stands for--so many Chinese have come to America in hope of a better life, and it's a testament that Chinese-Americans have been able to fulfill that dream that America represents.
PHIL PONCE: But the connection between you and the people who were greeting you seemed very real. It didn't seem theoretical. It seemed emotional.
GOV. GARY LOCKE: Well, it's--we were overwhelmed by the outpouring of warmth and support for us. I think it was a testament to them that people from China can go to another country and succeed, and I think it represents to a lot of Chinese people the opportunities that exist in other countries.
PHIL PONCE: Mrs. Locke, what was it like to have all those people lined up for miles leading into Jilong?
MONA LEE LOCKE: It was an unbelievable experience. We did not know exactly what to expect going into it, but I think we were just so overwhelmed that we were speechless and almost in tears just to have all those people lining the roads, cheering you on, you know, in a different country. It wasn't even our country. It was just overwhelming.
PHIL PONCE: Governor Locke, what was your impression of President Jiang? You met with him for roughly an hour.
GOV. GARY LOCKE: He was a very engaging individual. He's an electrical engineer. He keeps up on the latest developments by reading treatises and periodicals in English. He was very much looking forward to his visit to the United States and meeting President Clinton. We had a really good conversation. He expressed his personal pride in my election as governor of the state of Washington. And it was something that he and others in China had followed. And we talked about human rights issues. We talked about technology. We talked about cultural and educational and business ties between the state of Washington and China, because in the state of Washington we're proud of being the home of Boeing and Microsoft, but also so many states along the Western United States were built up through the blood, sweat, and tears, and the efforts of so many immigrant groups all across the world, but including Chinese. And--
PHIL PONCE: And speaking of Boeing, today President Clinton announced that there is going to be a deal signed between the Chinese government and Boeing to the tune of $3 billion for 50 planes. So that's pretty significant--it is for your state.
GOV. GARY LOCKE: That's correct, and we, during our visit, made a pitch for Boeing airplanes, and, of course, Boeing and China have a deep and long relationship. Boeing just a few years ago went to China to help improve the safety record of their equivalent of the FAA. And so we're really pleased because this really demonstrates that through an ongoing relationship between the United States, the State of Washington, and China there can be greater prosperity for people on both sides of the Pacific, and that China's very much interested in American products, technology, expertise, and medical--the medical field in terms of environmental clean-up and pollution controls, things that we have pioneered here that can improve the quality of life for the Chinese people.
PHIL PONCE: And how does one balance, though, the desire for commerce with these very strong pronounced differences on such things as human rights? Mrs. Locke, do you have any thoughts on that?
MONA LEE LOCKE: Well, I'm not sure how it would balance. I think you lead by example. And I think when we went into China, you know, being a cynical former journalist in a past life, I was very cynical about what I would see there and how much of a hold Communism would have on these people and their daily lives. And I was surprised, quite surprised, that they seemed to be living quite normal lives in our terms of, you know, what we know of democracy. And I think they've been encouraged to actually go out and buy their own apartments and living areas. You know, it's not the Communism we knew of years ago, and I think the important thing is that the interaction and that we can lead by example and hopefully they will follow somewhat.
PHIL PONCE: As Chinese-Americans, is there any insight that you have regarding the appearance at times that both sides might be talking past each other on issues like human rights and other things?
GOV. GARY LOCKE: Well, I think Americans need to understand the culture of China just as the Chinese need to understand the culture of America. And that's why these exchanges--cultural, educational, business, and political exchanges are very, very important and very productive. Nothing substitutes for face-to-face contact, which is why I think it's great that President Jiang Zemin is here in the United States, meeting with President Clinton and administration officials, and can even see the protests and is aware of the protests, because he can see democracy in action; that there can be a strong economy; there can be progress, modernization, while respecting political diversity and dissent.
And so I'm really pleased that he's here, that he can experience democracy firsthand, as opposed to reading about it, or watching news clips, and that he can have a better understanding of America. But, clearly, we need to understand that China deals in a totally different realm of time. It's a civilization that is thousands and thousands of years old. And it moves so--and that we need to take that into account as we measure progress because, after all, China is dealing with a population of 1.2 billion people. There are cities that are 40-million people strong, without modern sewer systems and water systems or road systems, with great environmental and pollution problems. Where do you start? How do you start the modernization and improvement of the standard of living within such a city? And so we need to understand and we need to be patient with China. That doesn't mean that we don't raise these issues because these are very near and dear to our ideals in America. And I raised them. I know that President Clinton has raised them, and others within the administration have raised these issues.
PHIL PONCE: Mrs. Locke, was there anything about China that you didn't fully understand or appreciate until this trip, something new that you learned?
MONA LEE LOCKE: Well, yes. I think the interesting thing I learned was really with women's rights; that they seemed to be a lot more advanced than I would have envisioned. And what we see here in the United States having never gone there, you know, I envisioned real--the woman stays at home, is expected to stay at home, take care of the child, but really, I think, we experienced, I mean, in Beijing half of the working population are women, just like here in the U.S., you know, and they were very--our tour guide was actually a women, and three out of the four people that were showing us around were women, and they were encouraged to get out there to work; they were--I was told that they were encouraged not to get married until later, in their late 20's, to wait before getting married, which seems to be totally opposite and different from in the past.
PHIL PONCE: Gov. Locke, here in the United States, what is the reaction among Chinese-Americans you've talked to about President Jiang's trip? Is it a source of pride, a source of concern? How was it seen?
GOV. GARY LOCKE: Well, I think that the Asian-American community or the Chinese-American community is not monolithic. And so there are a variety of different opinions. There's great pride in--that the summit is occurring, that China is a superpower, and wants to enter into the international community with greater strength, and is making great progress in a whole host of areas, not that it's done, but there's great pride in the fact that Jiang Zemin, President Jiang Zemin is visiting here and conducing the summit with President Clinton. Of course, there are different elements within the Asian-American community or the Chinese community who are concerned about Taiwan or religious freedom and democracy. But it's--you can have those concerns at the same time expressing pride and interest in what is happening in China.
PHIL PONCE: Mrs. Locke, is there any particular memory of China that you'll hold with you that sort of summarizes the trip as particularly meaningful?
MONA LEE LOCKE: Well, you know, there is. And I want to make it clear that I think that China has a long ways to go. It's not the rosy picture that, you know, we can talk about. We obviously had an extremely wonderful welcome. And it is not ordinary for most people, but the portion when we went back to Gary's family village with about two miles before the village, we just had schoolchildren lining--I think a little bit was in the video--we had schoolchildren lining the roads, welcoming us, and it was just such an amazing experience to be riding down the road and entering his, you know, historic family village, and just having these kids just for miles and miles lining the roads welcoming us.
PHIL PONCE: And with that, we thank you both for joining us.
GOV. GARY LOCKE: Thank you.
MONA LEE LOCKE: Thank you.