BEIJING - The American ambassador to China says he will step down from his post early next year to rejoin his family in Seattle.
Gary Locke says he informed President Barack Obama of his decision when they met earlier this month.
Locke took up the post in August 2011 and was the first Chinese-American to hold it.
Locke said in a Wednesday statement he is proud of what the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China have accomplished. He highlighted increasing U.S. exports to China, promoting Chinese investment in the U.S. and reducing waiting times for a visa to three to five from highs of 70-100 days.
He says during his tenure the embassy advanced American values by meeting with religious leaders and human rights lawyers.
Locke is married with three children.
Ambassador Locke s Statement on Serving as U.S. Ambassador to China
Serving as the U.S. Ambassador to China has been the honor of a lifetime. I am profoundly grateful to President Obama for providing me the opportunity to serve as his representative in Beijing these past two and a half years and to be the first Chinese-American to hold this position. Helping manage one of the most vitally important bilateral relationships for the United States, with so many critical American interests at stake, has been an immense and rewarding challenge. And living in China while representing the United States has truly been an exciting privilege for our entire family.
When I met with President Obama earlier this month, I informed him of my decision to step down as Ambassador in early 2014 to rejoin my family in Seattle.
I am extremely proud of the work of our staff at the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in China and what we have been able to accomplish together on behalf of the American people and for U.S.-China relations.
Our efforts have focused on job creation in America by increasing exports to China, opening more markets for American companies, and promoting Chinese investment in the U.S. We have significantly increased Chinese business and tourism travel to the U.S. by dramatically reducing wait times for a visa to 3-5 days from historical highs of 70-100 days. And we have advanced American values by meeting with religious leaders and human rights lawyers, and visiting Tibetan and Uighur ethnic minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang.
Finally, as I reflect on my tenure as Ambassador, I do so knowing that U.S.-China relations continue to grow stronger. While our bilateral relationship is a complex one, I remain confident in the ability of our leaders to manage differences and increase cooperation in areas of mutual concern to the benefit of not just our two great peoples, but the entire world.