U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy after his arrival in Beijing on March 18. (Petar Kujundzic/Reuters)

New U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus said one of his top goals will be ensuring a “level playing field for American businesses.”

In his first public remarks since arriving in Beijing, the former senator from Montana outlined his highest priorities: to nudge China into taking more global responsibility, strengthen people-to-people ties and raise Chinese respect for human-rights norms.

Addressinga packed room of Chinese and Western media reporters less than 24 hours after he and his wife landed in Beijing, Baucus opened his first news conference quoting Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s saying about a journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step.

“The fact is I like to walk. I like to travel,” he said, vowing that he would try to visit each of China’s 22 provinces and five regions before finishing his tenure.

He said that his interest in China began as a student when he hitchhiked his way around the world for a year, including a stop in Hong Kong.

Describing the increasingly complex and intertwined relationship between China and the United States, Baucus said, “We simply must get it right.”

On business, he talked of finding mutually beneficial interests while making sure U.S. businesses and workers can “compete fairly with their Chinese counterparts.”

On human rights, he said he would urge Beijing to “support the laws, norms, values and human rights that undergird the current international system from which we all benefit.”

He also talked of partnering with China on global issues from cybersecurity to global warming.

Baucus replaced former Washington governor Gary Locke, who generated fascination among the Chinese because of his status as a Chinese American.

By comparison, there was relatively less chatter about Baucus on China’s version of Twitter on Tuesday.

Baucus, however, arrives having been one of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate. In that role, he took stances against China at times on its trade practices, but also played a role in helping China gain admission to the World Trade Organization.