With Asia waking up Monday to news that Jon Huntsman would drop out of the Republican presidential race and endorse Mitt Romney, The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos closes the book on the campaign of the former U.S. ambassador to China:
Armed, as he promised, with “civility, humanity, and respect” in the face of his Republican opponents, Jon Huntsman got as far as you’d expect those tools to carry you in a campaign like this: single digits in South Carolina. That he did so while maintaining his dignity, sense of humor—and, one suspects, a bright future—speaks very well of him. Along the way, the former U.S. ambassador to Beijing became known for showcasing his years abroad and his fluency in Mandarin, despite assurances that demonstrating that kind of sophistication in a Republican primary contest was, in Donald Trump’s estimation, “ridiculous.”
While America slept, China greeted the news of Huntsman’s withdrawal—and his decision to endorse Romney—with mild bewilderment. “This is what you get for being a moderate,” Yuan Li, the editor of the Chinese language Wall Street Journal wrote on Weibo, the Chinese answer to Twitter. “He’s too rational and too level-headed, which makes it difficult him to persuade himself to express extreme views for the sake of gaining votes.”
Osnos pointed out during the opening to an interview with Huntsman in December 2009 that the former Utah Governor’s turn as ambassador in China likely took him self out of the running for the 2012 presidential nomination, and in the end his tenure came under fire mainly because it was at the service of a Democrat.