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Ethnic Chinese tipped as US energy chief
By Wu Jiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-12-12 07:05

Secretary of Labor Elaine Lan Chao will go out with the Bush administration next month - but there is likely to be another ethnic Chinese in the US Cabinet.

US president-elect Barack Obama is widely expected to name Physics Nobel winner Steven Chu his energy secretary. If nominated, he would become the second Chinese American in a US administration.

Steven Chu smiles at his home on the Stanford Campus in this 1997 file photo. [Agencies] 

Chu is now the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a government research institute in California. During his tenure, the lab has focused research on alternative energy, energy efficiency and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Chu and other officials to be chosen in the energy and environment sectors will form the backbone of a team that will carry out Obama's ambitious environmental agenda. And the Democrat's plan is likely to see major investments in alternative energy development.

Chu, who won the 1997 Nobel Prize for Physics, is the son of Chinese scholars who migrated to the US in the early 1940s from Taicang in Jiangsu province.

Chu, better known in China as Zhu Diwen, has visited China several times to deliver lectures in universities. He has also visited his forefathers' hometown, where a primary school is named after him.

The choice of Chu as energy secretary shows Obama's commitment to faster development of renewable energy, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, and strengthening Sino-US energy cooperation, officials and experts both in China and the US said Thursday.

"It's very exciting because Obama would be the first president-elect to have a Nobel Prize-winning scientist as energy secretary," David Rodgers, deputy assistant secretary to the US Department of Energy, told China Daily Thursday.

"I am confident that the US Department of Energy, under Chu's leadership, will continue to emphasize clean energy."

At the Berkeley laboratory, Chu is a leader not only in energy efficiency and renewable energy research, but also in international cooperation with China and India, Rodgers said at a press conference in the US embassy in Beijing.

"Along with the partnership with China, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has already demonstrated tremendous commitment to international cooperation. This is something I'm sure Chu will bring with him to the Department of Energy," Rodgers said.

Chu's nomination would reflect the Obama administration's aim of uniting all major political forces in the US and that Chinese Americans are playing an increasingly important role in US politics, said Zhou Shijian, senior researcher with Tsinghua University's Center for China-US Relations Studies.

Chu's ethnic origin will help strengthen Sino-US cooperation in the energy sector through more cooperation in nuclear energy and exchange of clean energy technologies, Zhou said.

Since Obama has put environmental issues high on his agenda, China and the US will cooperate more in the sector, and Chu's presence will make the cooperation smoother, Zhou said.