Huntsman reveals plans at China talk
Updated: 2011-06-15 10:44
By Ji Tao (China Daily)
Former United States ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (center) speaks about China on a panel event with Henry Kissinger (left), former US secretary of state, and Sir Harry Evans, former editor of The Sunday Times. The event was hosted by Thomson Reuters in New York on Tuesday. Brendan McDermid / Reuters
NEW YORK - As part of a panel on China policy, Henry Kissinger and Jon Huntsman had more to discuss on Tuesday than their knowledge of China. While Kissinger, the former United States secretary of state, was promoting his new book, Huntsman, the former US ambassador to China, announced his intentions to run for president.
At the New York event, Huntsman revealed his plans to announce his formal bid for the 2012 presidential race.
The talk was moderated by Sir Harold Evans, former editor of The Sunday Times.
Kissinger and Huntsman exchanged ideas on issues ranging from the latest South China Sea situation to China's economic evolution, and China-US military exchanges to different strategic mindsets rooted in US' chess-playing and China's fondness of weiqi, or go.
Huntsman, a Republican, is scheduled to officially announce his presidential candidacy next week at Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Nominated in 2009 as US President Barack Obama's envoy to China, he resigned in April to consider running for president.
While Huntsman, 51, may have treated the event as an opportunity to showcase his expertise on Chinese politics and China-US relations, Kissinger, 88, advised that the US should seek to build stronger cooperative relations with China, while refraining from directly pressuring China on domestic issues.
Regarding the South China Sea issue, which gained attention after Vietnam conducted a military exercise Monday in an "exclusive economic maritime zone" over which it claims sovereignty, Huntsman believed it is "an enormous opportunity to shore up" US ties with ASEAN countries.
However, Kissinger, who has witnessed every up and down in China-US relations over the past 40 years, said the US should stay close enough to be partners with China, while simultaneously work on building relations with other countries.
Answering questions on whether China's rise will inevitably threaten US interests, Kissinger pointed out China's rise is not comparable with Germany's rise in the 1900s, which, coupled with its military ambitions, posed great challenges to Britain.
Drawing wisdom from Chinese history, he went on to say that when China wants to expand its influence in the world. "It will not primarily be by military powers, though it may be backed up by military powers."
Kissinger has witnessed the shifts of four generations of Chinese leaders since his first secret trip to China in 1971. Yet, when pressed about China's internal politics, Kissinger was straightforward: "We should absolutely stay out of it."
"We can observe, study and draw conclusions. But we shouldn't talk as if we can shape the change by lecturing to the Chinese," Kissinger said.
He pointed out that direct pressure could backfire and lead to an opposite or unwanted result. Rather, evolution of the Chinese economy and urbanization are going to bring about changes, he said.
At the same time, the veteran diplomat acknowledged challenges facing China today, including income disparity, social injustice and demographically, the aging population.
Sharing with the audience that his son enlisted in the Navy on Tuesday, Huntsman stressed the importance of military-to-military exchanges between the two countries, which would "defuse suspicion through dialogue and interaction".
Huntsman said exchanges begin with marching bands and educational opportunities.
Though he said the US and China are "never going to reconcile our differences", it was more important, Huntsman said, that the two powers "have the ability to discuss our longer-term aspirations, our hopes and our interests".
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