Eyeing the White House After Service in China

Now that Jon Huntsman is back in the U.S. and possibly preparing for a presidential run, the New York Times assesses his tenure as U.S. Ambassador in Beijing:

The ambassador, who was to leave his post on Saturday, has proved deft with the carrot and stick, mixing measured criticism of China’s government with a relentless effort to cement its fractious relations with the United States. It has not always worked: in recent months, as China’s growing crackdown on domestic dissidents drew Mr. Huntsman’s pointed objections, the efforts of the ambassador and other American diplomats have been angrily rejected by Beijing.

When President Obama selected Mr. Huntsman, then the popular Republican governor of Utah, as ambassador in 2009, pundits speculated that the president was working to edge him out of the race for the 2012 Republican nomination. Mr. Huntsman has implied otherwise in speeches, expressing respect for Mr. Obama’s skills and saying that they share a common cause in improving relations.

Now that Mr. Huntsman is publicly pondering a run for the nomination anyway — an unstated but clear reason behind his departure — the question may not be whether his China stint hurt his chances, but whether it improved them. Clearly, he did not achieve the goals he set. In a valedictory speech last month in Shanghai, he put his frustrations with China’s prickly and suspicious diplomacy on full display.

April 30, 2011 10:40 PM
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