BEIJING – Does having “a Chinese face” help two top U.S. officials in hard bargaining on energy and trade issues with the Chinese?

U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, whose grandfather came to the United States from China, told reporters in Beijing not necessarily so.

But Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao expressed pride in Locke and U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu’s ancestory when he met with them on Thursday.

“For both secretaries of Chinese heritage, I am particularly glad to see you today. I want to extend CHINA/my congratulations to the two of you for taking very important positions in the U.S. administration,” Wen said at the start of a meeting on clean energy cooperation between the world’s biggest emitters greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Later, at a press conference at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, a Chinese reporter asked Locke and Chu whether “your Chinese face and your Chinese origin” provided an edge in negotiations with the Chinese.