Time to 'humanize' US-China ties: Huntsman

Updated: 2012-05-24 11:20

By Ariel Tung (chinadaily.com.cn)

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The US-China relationship has evolved from being strictly bilateral to one that now affects the world, and steps must be taken to humanize it, former US ambassador and presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said Wednesday.

"We see it as a relationship that impacts people of all levels of the society — because of trade, business opportunities and prospects. The stakes are way too high for us to fail in this relationship," Huntsman told the audience at an event in New York hosted by the National Committee on US-China Relations.

Huntsman discussed with the organization's president, Stephen Orlins, critical issues that surround US-China relations.

"Right now, a lot of Americans don't see the value in the US-China relationship. So a lot of politicians get away with bashing. They do it time after time because they know they can get away with it," said the moderate Republican, a former governor of Utah.

Huntsman, during and after his ultimately unsuccessful bid for his party's nomination, publicly disagreed with Republican front-runner Mitt Romney's China policy. On Wednesday, the former envoy reminded his audience that it's crucial to "step up our efforts in humanizing the US-China relationship".

"I think this is what we will become in 10 to 20 years down the road," he said.

Huntsman began to see a different side to the world's most important geopolitical link while serving as governor in Salt Lake City from 2005 to 2009.

"All of a sudden, China became less of a threat and more of a customer," he recalled. "We have more Mandarin-speaking students in Utah than any other state. Parents of these kids who have never been to China began lining up outside the classrooms. They knew their children would be stepping out to a different world than ours."

Huntsman was nominated to serve as Washington's ambassador to China by President Barack Obama in May 2009, with the Democratic chief executive emphasizing the Republican's experience in Asia and proficiency in Mandarin. He served in Beijing from August 2009 until returning to the US in April 2011 to launch what became a long-shot campaign to defeat Obama.

While their relationship continues to experience numerous ups and downs, the US and China have "completely underutilized" their opportunity to work together, Huntsman said. The two sides can and should cooperate more in tackling global issues including economic rebalancing, Iran and its nuclear program, and fighting terrorism.

In years to come, a primary focus of the relationship will be Chinese investment in the US, Huntsman said.

"As China moves from the export model to the consumption model, investment in the US could be a significant trend in the years to come. After all with 25 percent of the world’s GDP, we are still the best market in the world to invest in," said Huntsman.