Hunts­man wants stronger China ties BIO

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSSAMERICA - By Chen Weihua in Wash­ing­ton chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­

To Jon Hunts­man Jr, the for­mer US am­bas­sador to China, the new ma­jor power re­la­tion­ship be­tween China and the United States will be driven by people.

“You can write things on paper, you can come up with big ideas, but ul­ti­mately diplo­macy in US-China re­la­tion­ship is driven by people,” Hunts­man told an au­di­ence last week at the At­lantic Coun­cil dur­ing his de­but as chair­man of the coun­cil, a Wash­ing­ton-based think tank.

The for­mer two-time Utah gover­nor, who will turn 54 on March 26, be­lieves the two coun­tries have an in­ter­twined re­la­tion­ship that pro­pels them to work de­spite dis­agree­ments from time to time.

“We’ll dis­agree. We’ll have is­sues that bring ten­sions in the re­la­tion­ship and re­sults in the me­dia nasty head­lines, but we have to first and fore­most un­der­stand what brings us to­gether,” Hunts­man said. “We need glue in the re­la­tion­ship, we need ad­he­sive. That is very dif­fi­cult to find some­time,”

He has pre­vi­ously com­pared the re­la­tion­ship to a mar­riage where di­vorce is not an op­tion.

Hunts­man has been an ad­mirer of the courage and wis­dom dis­played by Pres­i­dent Richard Nixon and Chi­nese lead­ers Chair­man Mao Ze­dong and Pre­mier Zhou En­lai when they broke the ice in China-US re­la­tions in the early 1970s, seek­ing com­mon in­ter­ests de­spite huge dif­fer­ences.

He also praised the in­for­mal sum­mit be­tween Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama held at the Sun­ny­lands es­tate in Ran­cho Mi­rage, Cal­i­for­nia, last June when they vowed to build a new type of ma­jor coun­try re­la­tion­ship. How­ever, Hunts­man said that’s hardly enough.

“We need about 10 more Sun­ny­lands in or­der to re­ally un­der­stand each other,” Hunts­man said. Xi and Obama are sched­uled to meet next week on the side­lines of the Nu­clear Se­cu­rity Sum­mit in The Hague, in the Nether­lands.

Hunts­man listed a few key is­sues, such as the Korean penin­sula, the East China Sea and Afghanistan where China and the US could and should work to­gether, but he ac­knowl­edge that there is no easy so­lu­tion on the sovereignty is­sue and that the “gas tank is run­ning empty on trust, and some­thing has to be done to change that dy­namic.”

He be­lieves that a gen­er­a­tion of people needs to un­der­stand each other in a deep and nu­anced way. Hunts­man has said he is proud of hav­ing lived and worked over­seas and noted that his seven chil­dren have also been im­mersed in dif­fer­ent cul­tures by liv­ing and at­tend­ing schools in Sin­ga­pore, the Chi­nese main­land and Tai­wan.

Hunts­man first vis­ited the Chi­nese main­land in 1984 when he worked in the White House to pre­pare Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan for his first trip to China. Be­fore that, he was a Mor­mon mis­sion­ary in Tai­wan while also learn­ing the Chi­nese lan­guage, cul­ture and his­tory.

A flu­ent Chi­nese speaker and an avid ob­server and prac­ti­tioner in US-China re­la­tions in the past few decades, Hunts­man said he has been im­pressed by the new Chi­nese lead­er­ship, whom he de­scribed as “well schooled and prag­matic” and “em­barked on re­forms that are un­prece­dented since the 1970s”.

“The anti-cor­rup­tion drive and the eco­nomic re­form, I keep read­ing what is play­ing out and I would say: Xi Jin­ping is se­ri­ous about his di­rec­tion,” he said.

The for­mer deputy US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive be­lieves the ex­per­i­men­tal Shang­hai Free Trade Zone will fur­ther lib­er­al­ize the Chi­nese econ­omy in ser­vices and bet­ter pre­pare China for its next stage of de­vel­op­ment.

In an in­ter­view with Google Chair­man Eric Sch­midt last year, Hunts­man said there are some very ca­pa­ble and smart people on the team mak­ing China’s eco­nomic pol­icy and on the na­tional se­cu­rity team, cit­ing names such as Zhou Xiaochuan, who he said is one of the most able cen­tral bankers he has ever met.

Hunts­man be­lieves China has some of the best long-term strate­gic thinkers in the world while the US has some of the best short-term tac­ti­cal thinkers.

The politi­cian, diplo­mat and busi­ness­man has been a sharp critic of the dys­func­tional pol­i­tics in Wash­ing­ton. He with­drew from the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion race in early 2012 due to what he de­scribed as a “toxic” and neg­a­tive en­vi­ron­ment.

Dur­ing a de­bate on China, Hunts­man was made by his op­po­nents to look like the least knowl­edge­able and rel­e­vant among the po­ten­tial Repub­li­can can­di­dates. While Hunts­man was giv­ing his vi­sion about how to work with China to make the im­por­tant bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship work, his op­po­nents, such as


Born: 1960 • BA, Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia (1987) • US Am­bas­sador to Sin­ga­pore (1992-1993) • Gover­nor of Utah (2005 - 2009) • US Am­bas­sador to China (2009 - 2011) • Deputy US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive (2001-2003) • Chair­man, At­lantic Coun­cil (2014) Mitt Rom­ney and Rick San­to­rum, as­sailed him.

Since early last year, Hunts­man has been push­ing for a bi­par­ti­san cau­cus to break the con­gres­sional leg­isla­tive grid­lock, es­pe­cially on some of the na­tion’s hot-but­ton is­sues.

Hunts­man also be­lieves strength­en­ing US for­eign pol­icy must be­gin at home.

“Our pri­or­i­ties… need very much to be based on build­ing the fun­da­men­tals that will strengthen this na­tion. And that, by ex­ten­sion, will al­low us to en­gage with the world in more con­fi­dent ways,” he said.

He be­lieves the US has to im­prove in prac­tice its prin­ci­ples of lib­erty, democ­racy, hu­man rights and a free mar­ket. “And we prac­tice those im­per­fectly. In fact, one of my big­ger gripes is that we would be a much more ef­fec­tive world leader if we were to prac­tice what we preach with greater ef­fec­tive­ness,” said Hunts­man.

He be­lieves his own Repub­li­can party should be­come a lit­tle more pro­gres­sive and open on so­cial is­sues but con­ser­va­tive on fi­nan­cial and budget is­sues.

As Utah gover­nor, Hunts­man signed bills restrict­ing abor­tion, but he sup­ported leg­is­la­tion that would have al­lowed civil unions for same­sex cou­ples, but not same-sex mar­riage. But in Fe­bru­ary last year, he ex­pressed his sup­port for same-sex mar­riage.

Al­though Hunts­man suf­fered a low ap­proval rat­ing dur­ing the 2012 Repub­li­can pri­mary, as Utah gover­nor, his ap­proval ran as high as be­tween 80 to 90 per­cent at times and he won nearly 78 per­cent of the vote in his 2008 re-elec­tion.

Hunts­man was a po­lit­i­cal star at an early age. When he was 32, he was ap­pointed by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H. W. Bush in 1992 to be the US am­bas­sador to Sin­ga­pore, mak­ing him the youngest US am­bas­sador to serve in more than 100 years.

He be­came the deputy US Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in 2001 when China just joined the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion. Hunts­man re­signed his po­si­tion as US am­bas­sador to China on April 30, 2011, af­ter nearly two years on the job, to re­turn to ex­plore run­ning in the 2012 pres­i­den­tial race.

Hunts­man is well liked by many Chi­nese for his mod­er­ate views, and when he and his wife, Mary Kaye, ap­peared in pub­lic with Gra­cie Mei, whom they adopted in 1999 from Yangzhou in east China’s Jiangsu prov­ince, it de­lighted people.

He had pre­vi­ously told the me­dia what he told Gra­cie: “You are a very spe­cial am­bas­sador. I might be the of­fi­cial am­bas­sador, but you are a very im­por­tant cul­tural am­bas­sador be­cause you’re a bridge right across the Pa­cific Ocean.”


For­mer US Am­bas­sador to China Jon Hunts­man Jr talks about the US role in the world at the At­lantic Coun­cil in Wash­ing­ton on March 11. Hunts­man be­came chair­man of the think tank in Jan­uary.

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