10 Questions for Jon Huntsman

As U.S and Chinese leaders began their two-day summit in California last Friday, Obama’s former ambassador to China Jon Huntsman spoke about U.S-China relations with John Harwood at The New York Times.

Q. Grade President Obama on how he’s doing with the Chinese.

A. Well like most presidents at this point, it’s incomplete. I’ve watched him in action, and I think he’s a very solid president as it relates to trying to understand the subject matter, forging a relationship — Hu Jintao, Xi Jinping — I think he’s very dedicated to that end. So his priorities might be a little different than the rest of us, but he’s doing his best. Now what is interesting here is, the rhythm of the U.S.-Chinese relationship is synchronized for the first time in recent memory. You have the rise of the fifth-generation leaders in China under Xi Jinping and an open set of possibilities here. […]

[…] Q. What’s working and what isn’t working in our relationship with China right now?

A. Well, we’re up to $500 billion in trade. We were at zero 40 years ago. This relationship has come farther, faster than any relationship in humankind. We now have 200,000 students in this country — China just overtook India with the amount of students in America. You get the next generation learning in our schools, associating with Americans, better understanding our values. And they take that home — that’s a huge deal.

Our cooperation — however slow or difficult — on Iran and North Korea is way more stepped up today than it has been in the past, because our interests are more and more in line as the top two economies in the world. […] [Source]

After the summit concluded on Saturday morning, officials from both sides expressed satisfaction with the meeting and the advances made in the two countries’ bilateral ties. From Thomas Catan and Colleen McCain Nelson at The Wall Street Journal:

U.S. and Chinese officials seemed delighted at the outcome of the working, informal “shirtsleeves summit,” with one Chinese participant calling it a “constructive, strategic and historic” meeting between the two world powers. Overall, President Barack Obama and his new Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, spent a total of eight hours together, including a 50-minute walk with only translators through a rambling estate in the scorching California desert.

[…] The two countries pledged to work together to tackle security threats. The U.S. has sought to enlist Chinese help to restrain its ally, North Korea, which has ratcheted up tensions in the region recently with bellicose rhetoric and missile tests. The new Chinese leader has shown some signs of being less tolerant of North Korea’s actions. For example, the Chinese government recently ordered its biggest state-owned bank to stop doing business with the country. But it’s not clear if that trend will continue.

On Saturday, Chinese officials emphasized that they shared an interest with the U.S. in getting North Korea back to the nuclear disarmament talks. “The pressing need right now is to resume the talks as soon as possible,” said Mr. Yang. “China is ready to maintain close dialogue and cooperation with the U.S. in this respect.” [Source]

Read more on Huntsman and the 2013 California summit via CDT, including a recent New York Times op-ed by Huntsman and Ian Bremmer.