Former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman talked to Foreign Policy’s Isaac Stone Fish about China-bashing campaign rhetoric, Sino-U.S. relations and political sensitivities in China ahead of its looming leadership transition:
FP: Are you surprised that China hasn’t become a bigger issue in the campaign?
JH: Beyond it being used as a political tool rhetorically, we’ve had very little talk of China at a time when we ought to be having a substantive conversation, because it is the relationship that will matter the most in the 21st century.
[…] I was supposed to be there a month ago giving a speech, but they canceled my [invitation—see below]. Why? Because I talk too much about human rights and American values, and they know that. And at a time of leadership realignment, the biggest deal in 10 years for them, they didn’t want the former U.S. ambassador saying stuff that might create a narrative that they would have to fight. I understand that. But when the transition is done, the crazy American ambassador will be let back in, and I can say whatever I want. As they used to tell me when I was over there was “Women zhongguo ye you zhengzhi”—“We have politics too in China.”
Huntsman originally said that Chinese authorities had cancelled his visa, but later claimed to have misspoken.