May 17,2009

Will Jon Huntsman to China Be a Messenger or Mover and Shaker?

By Thomas Wilkins, Washington DC

President Obama has nominated 49-year-old Governor Jon Huntsman of Utah as US Ambassador to China. Ironically, he belongs to the Republican Party and co-chaired Senator John McCain's presidential race against President Obama. Before the announcement, President Obama's own 2008 campaign manager, David Plouffe, recently voiced concerns in national media that Huntsman should be feared the most as the Republican Party's nominee for president in the forthcoming 2012 presidential campaign. Senator John McCain has mentioned his name as a potential candidate for the 2012 presidential election, when President Obama will be eligible to run for his second and final term.

Speaking at the White House, Governor Huntsman accepted President Obama's nomination in the Diplomatic Reception Room by saying in Mandarin Chinese "Together we work, together we progress." President Obama cited him as a "distinguished public servant."

Huntsman's foreign policy experience includes: Deputy US Trade Ambassador, US Ambassador to Singapore when he was the youngest US Ambassador in more than 100 years, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce, Trade Development Bureau, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for East Asia and the Pacific. He earned a BA degree in International Politics from the University of Pennsylvania. He has twice been unanimously confirmed by the Senate as a US Ambassador.

"He's got diplomacy in his DNA," said Mike Lee, the governor's first term general counsel.
 
Referring to China, President Obama based the US objectives as " Given the breadth of issues at stake in our relationship with China, this ambassadorship is as important as any in the world-because the United States will be able to deal effectively with global challenges in the 21st century by working in concert with China."

The governor had scheduled a trip to China next week with a delegation of Western governors with climate change, alternative energy and clean air technology as topics for discussion. The trip was canceled due to concerns by some of the governors about swine flu.

Chinese provincial governors are coming to visit Utah for the Western Governors Association conference in Stein Eriksen Lodge, Park City, Utah, June 14-16, 2009. Governor Huntsman, Jr. is currently scheduled to give the Welcome and Introductions. The agenda includes "Managing Water in a Changing World", "Tapping the West's Renewable Energy Potential," a keynote address by Robert Zoellick, President of the World Bank, "Combating Global Climate Change," and "Fostering International Cooperation on Energy and the Environment" with a number of deputy governors of provinces in Middle and Western China.

As governor, Mr. Huntsman championed economic development, health-care reform, education and energy security as his top objectives. He oversaw large tax cuts and proposed reorganization of state services in order to meet the state's fast growing population. He is proponent of expanded health-care via the private sector, using tax breaks. He is also receptive to environmental issues with reduce fuel consumption and concerns about nuclear waste storage.

Governor Huntsman is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, which is headquartered in Salt Lake, Utah. Governor Huntsman served on a church mission in Taiwan and speaks fluent Mandarin Chinese. His church was early sponsors of missionaries to Hong Kong in 1853, established a headquarters there in 1949 and has sent over 400 Mormons to Chinese universities, where they work as English teachers.  He and his wife, Mary Kaye, have seven children, including Gracie Mei,  who was adopted from China.

Governor Huntsman is the oldest son of 72-year-old billionaire businessman Jon Huntsman, Sr., who grew up in poverty but is often on Forbes Magazine's 400 Richest Americans. He was once identified by Time Magazine as the sixth largest philanthropist in the United States. Two years ago his contributions to charity amounted to $750 million in one single year. He is the father of 9 children, over 70 grandchildren and author "Winners Never Cheat: Everyday Values We Learned as Children (But May Have Forgotten).

Huntsman, Sr. is chairman of one of the world's largest chemical companies.  It is a major producer of polyurethane chemicals (40% of sales in 2008), including methylene  diphenyl  diisocyanate (MDI) used in making foams, coatings and adhesives and Methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE)  used as a gasoline blending component which has been found to pollute large quantities of groundwater when gasoline with MTBE is spilled or leaked at gas stations. Despite large sums of money spend to improve its environmental discharge, the company is believed to be among the biggest air polluters in the US.

In late 2006, Huntsman Corporation completed a world-scale MDI joint venture project in China. The China joint venture describes itself as: " China is rapidly becoming a major area of focus for Huntsman, a commitment reflected in a new $1 billion integrated isocyanates complex at Caojing in Shanghai. Huntsman is increasing its presence in China through continuing investments in our differentiated business portfolio"

Governor Huntsman's nomination must be confirmed by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It is chaired by an opponent of the Kyoto Treaty on global warming without greenhouse gas emissions limits on China, Senator John Kerry. He  was a 2004 opponent against former President George Bush in the 2004 presidential campaign and  once labeled  the Chinese government as  "currency predators." During his 2004 presidential campaign, his Democratic platform expressed commitment to a "one China" policy, subject to the "best interests of the Taiwanese people"

 

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