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Gary Locke, US Ambassador To China, Photographed Ordering Coffee In Airport

Gary Locke

08/16/11 04:19 PM ET   AP

SEATTLE — A photo of the new U.S. ambassador to China carrying his own backpack and ordering his own coffee at an airport has charmed Chinese citizens not used to such frugality from their officials.

ZhaoHui Tang, a businessman from Bellevue, Wash., snapped the photo Friday on his iPhone when he spotted Gary Locke at the counter of an airport Starbucks. Locke is the first Chinese-American ambassador to China and a former governor of Washington state.

Tang uploaded the photo to the Chinese social media network Sina Weibo because he thought it was cool to run into the new ambassador at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

He didn't expect it to generate 40,000 reposts and thousands of comments.

"This is something unbelievable in China," said Tang, a Chinese-American citizen. "Even for low-ranking officials, we don't do things for ourselves. Someone goes to buy the coffee for them. Someone carries their bags for them."

Locke tried to use a coupon or voucher for the coffee, but the barista rejected it, Tang said. The ambassador then paid with a credit card, he said.

Tang, chief executive of an Internet advertising firm called adSage, was flying from Seattle to Silicon Valley. Locke was leaving for China from the next gate over.

Tang introduced himself to Locke when he took the picture and wished him luck in the new job.

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Filed by Kate Auletta  |