In the News: Huntsman Discusses Geopolitics of China and U.S.

Former U.S. Ambassador to China and Singapore Gov. Jon Huntsman discussed the "Geopolitics of China and the U.S." before a crowd of nearly 2,000 at the 18th Boe Forum on Public Affairs Monday night in the Elmen Center.

The following story on the event, presented by the Center for Western Studies, appears in the Tuesday, Nov. 5, edition of the Argus Leader:

Huntsman: U.S. reaction will be key to change in China
By Nick Lowrey, Argus Leader

The biggest story of this century will be the rise of China to superpower status and how the United States reacts to it, according to former U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman.

The former Utah governor, one-time Republican presidential candidate and recognized China specialist spoke Monday night at Augustana College’s Boe Forum on Public Affairs. He talked about the relationship beween China and the U.S. — the two largest economies in the world.

“I suspect the most important story in the next century will be the rise of China and how we reacted to it,” Huntsman told a sizable crowd at the Elmen Center.

He said the next 10 years in China have the potential to be the most transformative in that country’s history, because of several immense challenges its new leaders face. Chief among those issues is a looming debt problem.

“They’re going to have to make their central bank independent,” Huntsman said.

China’s central bank is controlled too tightly by the country’s communist party and government, he said, to adapt interest rates to rapid changes that Huntsman said probably will occur in the next decade.

For Rose Kunkel, who said she comes to see the Boe Forum speaker every year, the future of American relations with China is an important issue.

“We do a lot of business with them,” Kunkel said.

Another issue Huntsman said China will have to deal with is massive government corruption, which has become a growing source of discontent for the Chinese people.

“It’s deep, and it’s endemic,” Huntsman said.

The growth and inherent difficulty of managing its citizens’ access to the rest of the world through the Internet also will be a source of change in China, Huntsman said. He said bloggers are going off the Chinese Communist party’s message and causing ordinary Chinese to question how the country is governed. That, Huntsman said, will lead to reforms.

“You’re probably going to see 10 years of the most significant change we’ve seen,” Huntsman said.

An opportunity to learn from Huntsman’s take on China was prime reason why Steve Petsche of Tucson, Ariz., attended the Elmen Center speech.

“I know Americans have a completely messed up view of China,” Ptseche said.

“I think it’s critical they’re the next superpower.”

The most significant and difficult change China probably will undergo, Huntsman said, is transitioning from a manufacturing-and-production economy to an economy based more on middle-class consumption.

“It’s a tricky transition they’ve embarked on. There’s no guarantee they’ll make it to the finish line,” Huntsman said.

The speech also focused on problems in Asia, especially in the northeastern part of the continent, the crossroads for a large portion of the world’s economic activity. Huntsman said one of his biggest concerns as ambassador was a lack of communication between the various militaries operating in that region.

“Really, the biggest challenge between us is what happens if there’s an incident on the high seas or in the air,” Huntsman said.

Accidents, Huntsman said, have the greatest potential to ignite violence between the many competing powers in Asia.

“How do you de-escalate those situations? That’s the untold story,” Huntsman said.

Gov. Jon Huntsman talks with students at AugustanaAhead of the Boe Forum, Gov. Huntsman visited with Augustana and area students while Dr. Janet Blank-Libra, English and journalism professor, moderated questions.