Is there anyone more knowledgeable to speak about U.S.-Chinese relations than Jon Huntsman? I have to assume the answer is “no” considering Governor Huntsman is exactly who the New York Times went to before President Obama and new Chinese President Xi Jinping had a meeting last month. Gov. Huntsman provided a lot of interesting and thought-provoking answers concerning China, showing once again he is the leading foreign policy wonk of the GOP:
[NYT] What’s working and what isn’t working in our relationship with China right now?
[JH] 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.
We don’t have enough trust in the relationship to drill down to a level of granularity where you can, for example, talk about contingency planning on the Korean peninsula if you have a failed nation-state in the North. What do you do about the nukes? What do you do about refugees? What do you do about command and control? There isn’t a road map developed yet for that kind of thing, which to me should keep policy makers up at night. It did to me in Beijing.
It’s not the confrontation that I worry about — that’s way overblown. What concerns them is the same thing that concerns us, and that is an implosion on the Korean Peninsula by a crazy leader that unleashes uncertainty in a region that is now close to being 20 percent of the world’s G.D.P.
The NYT didn’t focus solely on China, however. They also asked him about domestic politics:
[NYT] Let’s go to U.S. politics. What does it say about the Republican Party that Michele Bachmann made a bigger splash in 2012 than you did?
[JH] Politics as theater. There’s a lot of entertainment value in politics, I’ve come to find. So if you want to talk about the big issues of the day and put forward a policy reform to deal with education, energy, foreign affairs, that doesn’t get the bounce or the altitude that the political theater does. If you want to call somebody a name, if you want to give a speech with crazy content — that will sell, and that will get you on the front pages of the newspaper.
And sadly, that’s where politics has become a little surreal and a little too focused on the entertainment side of things. It’s bad for the candidates and it’s really bad for the voters. The substance and the vision about where this country is going, rarely is that able to get to the surface.
The Governor could not be more correct. The state of American politics today is dreadfully slanted to “political theater” and partisans on both sides view “scoring points” to be more important than cooperation so that the business of the American people is managed. We can’t get a functional Washington until policy trumps partisan bickering. Thankfully, America has one politician willing to try to focus on policy over theater, and thankfully there are media outlets willing to give him increasing face time. Bravo to Gov. Huntsman on a very well done interview.