While en route to Beijing in 2011 to begin his post as the new U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke stopped at a Starbucks in Seattle–Tacoma International Airport to buy a cup of coffee. A Chinese-American businessman snapped a photo (see below) and posted it on Sina Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter.
Reposted over 40,000 times, the humble scene of Locke, with a backpack slung over his shoulders, unattended by anyone but his 6-year-old daughter, caused a sensation in China. Thousands of comments on the initial post contrasted Locke’s unassuming travel style with the elitist image of Chinese officialdom. The uproar inspired a commentary by the editor of the China Daily under the headline “Backpack Makes a Good Impression.”
On Monday, October 29, Ambassador Locke will discuss U.S.-China relations through a live webcast with audiences across the country, including a group at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where his remarks will be combined with a panel discussion and lecture on the growing impact of social media like Sina Weibo.
The events are part of the sixth annual China Town Hall, sponsored by the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, partnering locally with the Madison Committee on Foreign Relations (MCFR). China Town Hall is a national day of programming on China, including a webcast being viewed at sites in more than 50 American cities.
In Madison, events will be held at the Pyle Center, starting at 4 p.m. with a panel discussion in room 226 -- featuring UW-Madison professors Nicole Huang (literature), Zhongdang Pan (communication arts), Sida Liu (sociology) and Melanie Manion (political science and public affairs) -- followed by a 6 p.m. lecture by guest Dr. Min Jiang of UNC-Charlotte, "Micro-blogging, Micro-power?" and the 7 p.m. live broadcast with Ambassador Locke in the Pyle Center’s AT&T Lounge.
Click here to the full press release on the event.