By Drew Luther
On Nov. 2, the Henry H. Fowler Program hosted Jon M. Huntsman, Jr. as a speaker on “Our Future with China.” Huntsman has filled many political positions, ranging from Governor of Utah, Staff Assistant to President Reagan, US Trade Ambassador, and US Ambassador to China.
He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and has seven honorary doctoral degrees.
Huntsman prepped the crowd with a few jokes, mentioning his gratitude for the moving eulogy and his wife’s questions about when he is going to get a consistent job. He also highlighted his failed attempts at becoming a rock star, saying, “What else is a failed rock star to do but politics?” Before broaching the main subject, Huntsman talked to the students in the audience. He said, “We’ve got some work to do in this country.”
The official topic of the night’s talk revolved around the USA’s current and future foreign relations with China. Huntsman said the headline issues of the next century will be the advancement of biotechnology, the events in the Middle East, and the rise of China. However, the important aspect is how the world will respond to the rise in power.
“Eleven out of fifteen times, a rising power bumps against the established world order, it results in war,” said Huntsman. “The odds are against a peaceful rise of China.
During the lecture, Huntsman discussed a historic shift in the leadership of China. It was noted that this is the fifth generation of leadership in China and that will have a large effect on how things play out. The fifth generation “has suffered the most during the Cultural Revolution, saw the most chaotic parts of China and do not want to see [them] again,” said Huntsman.
According to Huntsman, the leaders in China wear suits and ties, speak English, and have degrees from the most prestigious universities around the world. China is rising in power is is solving problems because Chinese President Xi Jinping goes “into work every day and asks what they are going to do about debt.” A rage portion of Huntsman’s talk revolved around China’s ability to discuss how they should change the fiscal system, and how they deal with urbanization. Huntsman predicts that President Jinping will have reforms he wants to have completed in 2022, but the biggest problem from him will be keeping pace with domestic expectations.
In the course of his lecture, Huntsman also talked about his experience as a Republican candidate during the 2012 Presidential Elections and how this led into his being the US ambassador to China. Huntsman related the story of being asked by President Obama to be the US Ambassador. He said, “President Obama called me and told me to come. I sat in the Oval Office and he asked if I was willing to serve my country and take the position.”
Despite Obama being a Democrat, Huntsman recounted that he felt it was important to serve his country regardless of the party of the president. He said, “When the President of the United States asks you to do something, you do it.” The was also a lesson he passed onto his children.
A main discussion in his lecture was the emphasis to the audience that America does have issues, but that these issues should be preferred to any other country’s issue. The problem in this nation is human failure, not structural people. Huntsman said, “People won’t work together in solving the most pressing problems of our day.”
“Decisions that will be made in the next year will decide where we end up,” said Huntsman. The most important trends in the world according to Huntsman are “climate change, diffusion of power, personal empowerment, erosion of the old order, and changes in demographics.”
Concluding the lecture, Huntsman fielded questions from the audience about topics such as Hong Kong, changes in the One Child Policy, environmental collaboration, and other questions revolving around Americas relations with China. After the lecture audience members were invited to attend an “After Party” in Colket Atrium hosted by the Public Affairs Society to continue discussing the topics.